Today in the legislature I rose to speak against a cynical bill brought in by government. Bill 4 — Election Amendment Act 2017 is the BC government’s response to overwhelming public pressure to eliminate corporate and union donations to BC political parties. The bill of course does nothing of the sort and is little more than a political ploy to distract attention away from the egregious “pay to play” politics ongoing in BC. As Leader of the BC Green Party I am proud to say that we proactively stopped accepting corporate and union donations in the fall of last year.
All the bill does is require political parties to report out on who is donating to them on a more regular basis. It also requires donations over $100 (instead of $250) to be reported publicly with the name of the donor. A committee would also be struck and that committee would make non binding recommendations sometime in the future on electoral financing reform.
What’s even more cynical is that the government has no intention of passing the bill as we rise tomorrow at lunch time and there simply is not enough time for us to finish second and third reading.
Needless to say I spoke against this bill. Below I reproduce the video and text of my speech.
A. Weaver: It gives me enormous pleasure to stand and speak to Bill 4, the Election Amendment Act.
I do appreciate the last speech that the member opposite gave because we won’t be seeing him back in a few months. That member’s landslide victory of over 200 votes is likely in jeopardy, in light of the fact that this government is not listening to the will of the people.
Time and time again, it has been made very clear that what the people of British Columbia want is big money out of politics. This government’s response, through this bill, is to rub it in their faces a little more often — hardly listening to the people of British Columbia.
You know, what is this bill doing? It’s essentially saying you’ve got to report out the egregious donations you’re getting from any union, any corporation, any individual, anywhere in the world. Because only in the Wild West of B.C. can any person, any union, any corporation, anywhere in the world donate any amount of money they want to any political party, any time. You can’t make this stuff up.
There’s a reason why the New York Times laughed at us. There’s a reason why people around the world laugh at us. This government says: “You know what? We’re doing this because it’s right.” No, they’re doing this because it serves them right. It serves their wishes because they know that their donors will donate vast amounts of money to ensure that they remain in power.
What happens when you’ve been in power for so long is that the level of arrogance with which you govern becomes unbearable. The fact is that we have a government here that has lost touch with the people of this province; a government that, under its watch, has created disparity between those who have and those who have not like no other jurisdiction; a government that only reacts reactively to issues, rather than thinking about the proactive response; a government that is so cynical that it makes an unpredicted windfall from an out-of-control speculative real estate market.
And what do they do with that money? Not what most British Columbians want. Most British Columbians would say: “You’ve created a problem. Use that money to help solve the problem you created.” Did that money go into affordable housing? Did that money go to assist people? No, it didn’t. It went back to try to incentivize an out-of-control market by giving, to people who can barely afford a mortgage, an interest-free loan. It’s reckless. This government is out of control, and this bill, Bill 4, exemplifies that.
Bill 4 essentially says: “We’re not here to listen to you. Our corporate interests are far more important than the actual interests of the people of British Columbia.” Unions don’t vote. Corporations don’t vote. We’ve got union and corporate donations, and in fact, the party that I lead, the B.C. Green Party, started receiving an uptick. Historically, it had been about 10, 12, 13, 14 percent of our donations.
In the fall, it started to pick up. Two unions donated to us, and we’re very grateful that they did. A major international corporation donated to us, and we’re very grateful that it did. But we didn’t like the direction that was heading. We wanted to show leadership, because we recognize that unions don’t vote, corporations don’t vote. So what did the B.C. Greens do? We banned union and corporate donations from our party. We banned them, and immediately upon doing that, the people of British Columbia responded, and our fundraising went through the roof.
As a party we raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars in the month of December alone, and each and every penny was donated by individual people, with an average donation of about $58. In January and February and March, we’re shattering historical records by more than 500 percent in our fundraising — again, each and every penny coming from people, not unions or corporations. That’s how the people of British Columbia responded. But what do we have here? A government that actually doesn’t want to represent the people, a government that says: “You know what? If you want to get something done in B.C., you’ve got to pay. It’s pay-for-play in B.C.”
Let me give you a bunch of examples. If this government doesn’t believe it’s pay-for-play, then this government would simply do what’s right. They would say: “We’re not going to accept union and corporate donations.” They would have brought a bill like this that would have said: “We’re not going to accept them.” But they’re not. They’re afraid, because they don’t have the support of regular people. They have the support of the corporate elite.
They can fund advertisements and fill the airwaves — not only with taxpayer money, not only with the taxpayers’ money advertising MSP premiums that aren’t even going to come into effect until next year, but also to try to brand various people and groups in the way that they want them to be seen in British Columbia. This is the banana republic of B.C., under this government. This is not what we expect in a democracy.
So what do we have? We have reporting a little more often. Now if you raise $100, that’s going to be reported out. All those people who want to give $100 are now going to have to be reported out. That’s fine. We can live with that. Again, all it’s doing is shoving it in your face. When you know that people tell you that they are donating to the B.C. Liberals because they feel they have to, when you get these people contacting your office saying that, you know there’s a problem in B.C. If they think that that’s not happening in this province, they are out of touch. That is why I’m convinced….
British Columbians, you have seen the voter turnout drop in B.C. over many years. British Columbians have become cynical with this government, which runs like an oligarchy, with less than one in four registered voters supporting them. The 75 percent of British Columbians who did not support the B.C. Liberals in the last election feel disenfranchised.
How we move forward is to get people actually to vote in the upcoming election, because a high voter turnout means that this government is gone and that whatever combination of others in this room forms government, whatever combination forms government, we’ll deal with this. We’ll deal with this and actually bring politics back to the people of British Columbia. We’ve dealt with this proactively. The official opposition has promised to deal with it if they get elected. I believe them on that. I wish, obviously, that they had done it as well, earlier on, but I believe that they will.
Obviously, this bill will not pass. We don’t even have time to pass it, hon. Speaker. It’s Wednesday, and we’re rising tomorrow. We’ve got to go into committee stage, but we’ve already been booked off. The Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council is coming at 11:45.
How cynical can you get? We’re debating a bill that the government has no intention passing because we’re rising at 11:45 tomorrow. What a hypocrisy we are seeing play out with us. This bill — it’s not a prop; it’s actually the bill — is not worth the paper it’s written on, because this government has no intention to pass is.
This government is doing this purely as a ploy to distract from the ongoing RCMP investigation into the funding of their party by lobbyists who back-bill their corporate clients and then who, actually, in the article by Kathy Tomlinson, point out that they claim the personal tax receipt. And they claim: “We’ll cooperate, but we don’t anything about it.” I cannot wait for this RCMP investigation.
What I hope is we get to some truth. My dream would be this government would be fined millions and millions of dollars so that the playing field in B.C. is actually fair and level — a fair and level playing field that is not propped up by the companies that donate to them.
Let me give an example. Whose interest are being…? Let’s look at Mount Polley. We had a tailings pond breach. Not a single person has been held accountable.
A. Weaver: We have: “The investigation is not done.” Of course, it’s not done. There’s an election that is coming up. It could and should have been done.
This tailings pond happened several years ago. We know that the company involved is a substantive donor to the B.C. Liberals. We know, frankly, that the union that put the workers on was a substantive donor.
A. Weaver: Right.
Deputy Speaker: Members.
A. Weaver: There are so few conservation officers left in British Columbia because they’ve cut them all back. No wonder it’s taking so long.
A. Weaver: Oh, it is true, because in the first cuts in 2001, when the government first came in, we found that mining was in the same ministry as oil and gas. Back in 2001, this government was getting a lot of revenue from oil and gas.
I know that, because I worked in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at UVic, which has a geology component. The B.C. geological survey was absolutely decimated. Those are the decisions that this government has made.
Coming back to it, whose interests are being represented in the Mount Polley case? Is it the people who live in the area?
A. Weaver: Oh. Minister of Environment says it is the people’s interest. Why is it that they feel — the people there — that they have to contact me? Time and time again, residents are contacting me, the lone Green MLA on southern Vancouver Island, because their interests are not represented by this government.
A. Weaver: Shawnigan Lake is another example.
Thank you to the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke.
Shawnigan Lake. Whose interests are been represented there? Is it the peoples’ interests? Is it the peoples’ interests who actually had to take their own government to court to have their interests represented? Mount Polley. The people there are taking this government to court.
Why is this happening time and time again, when the people of our province feel that the only way that their interests are heard is by taking this government to court? I’ll tell you why. It’s because this government cares more about catering to the donors that come to their party than it does to actually the people who are voting.
Corporations don’t vote. Unions don’t vote. The people vote, and they ignore the people’s voice. And it will be at their peril, because let me tell you that you have a very hard time in British Columbia — certainly on Vancouver Island — finding anybody who believes or admits to voting Liberal. They’re so afraid of admitting to vote Liberal, I don’t know they actually exist.
Have you found some there in Vancouver?
Have you found some in Powell River–Sunshine Coast?
A. Weaver: My friend here found a couple. I don’t know where they are.
A. Weaver: Oh, that’s right. Good point.
Obviously, I cannot support this bill. But it’s not really that important whether I support it or I don’t support it, because as I pointed out, we’re not going to pass this bill because this government is acting, yet again, so cynically.
This bill is put forward so they can look to the public like they’re fulfilling a promise, like they’re listening to the people, that they’re actually doing something about the outrageous donations happening in this province. They’re not. They’re not doing that.
There are talking points with this bill not worth the paper that it’s written on, because we’re not going to pass it. We not going to take this bill into committee stage.
Look at the time. It’s nearly 5 o’clock, and the speakers are lined up a mile deep wanting to speak to this bill. We can’t get to it. We can’t even finish all these speeches. If we can’t finish these speeches, we can’t go into committee. If we can’t go to a committee, we can’t pass it. This is cynical.
I predict what’s going to happen. At about 6:30 or 6:15 today, a vote will be called. It’ll be called on division, and that means because the Liberals will try to put a trap in. All the official opposition and I will stand, voting against this bill, and all the Liberals, like sheep, will stand and vote against — even though most of them, frankly, don’t even believe the words that are emanating from their own mouths.
The Minister of Advanced Education. Did you see the Minister of Advanced Education? He was literally laughing as he was speaking. That’s the level to which this discourse has fallen, when people don’t even believe what they’re saying. People stand up and deliver a speech because they have to. It’s not because they believe in it.
I look forward to this vote. I look forward to British Columbians recognizing just how cynical this is. I look forward to the legislative press gallery, who I hope are watching right now, who actually will report out that this is a cynical approach, that will continue to hold this government to account and point out the egregious nature of the money that flows within.
How much money has the oil and gas industry donated to the B.C. Liberals? Millions of dollars. Is there any surprise that here in B.C. we’re fixated on trying to drag ourselves back into the 20th century on LNG? Millions.
What do we end up with? Let’s look at Woodfibre LNG, a company that’s a big donor to the B.C. Liberals. This big project that’s being delivered — the subsidy, the per-taxpayer subsidy per job, for those 100 jobs, is $440,000 a year. That’s good Liberal economics. Each and every one of those jobs at Woodfibre, if it ever happens, is subsidized by the public to the tune of $440,000 a year.
You could take 880 people on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and give them $50,000 a year, and that would be a greater injection into the B.C. economy, because we know people on the low-income scale spend their money in the economy and don’t ship the profits offshore to another jurisdiction.
This is Liberal economics. This is what we get in B.C. when we have this Wild West of corporate donations. You want to play? You pay. When you pay, we’ll use the taxpayers’ money to subsidize.
[R. Lee in the chair.]
We’ll build Site C dam. Why do we need the power? We don’t need the power. Power hasn’t increased since 2005 or so. It’s flat. We’re building Site C. It’s going to come in at 13½ to 15 cents a kilowatt hour, when all is said and done — about double, maybe even triple, what wind would cost.
In doing this, we’ve cleaned killed the clean energy sector. We’ve killed it in terms of its ability to thrive because of the fact that we have power that no one needs.
A. Weaver: Oh, the Penticton mayor is all excited about ten windmills in his riding. Just excited about it — ten windmills, wow. We’ve got ten windmills in Penticton.
A. Weaver: I would argue that the member for Penticton, who also is about to lose his seat…. I would argue that what he should do is actually travel around and recognize that Penticton, with ten, is nice. Vancouver has one. They earn more in tourism from that one windmill than they actually do from energy.
The problem here is they’re out of touch. We have Site C power. Again, it’s a subsidy for an industry that doesn’t exist. The reason why it’s being built is because this government, through its corporate and union donations, has decided that they want LNG to happen — try to squeeze water from a rock, a really big rock, and squeeze no water. They can’t.
They sign contracts, like the Woodfibre LNG electricity contract. Like the Shell…. Oh, there’s a good one. B.C. Hydro and Shell signed electricity purchase agreements to deliver into at below-market rates. Shell just packed up and left. We don’t hear that from this government.
We continue to get donations, and they’re proposing to rub this in British Columbians’ faces a little more often and argue that, somehow, this is transparent. Somehow it’s transparent to rub it in their faces a little more often — the egregious nature of their donations. I don’t think so.
You know, we need a change. We truly do need a change in our electoral finance. Sadly, I don’t believe that is exemplified in Bill 4 here. Bill 4 maintains the status quo. In fact, I would argue it takes us backwards.
It takes us backwards because it puts an onerous burden on smaller parties, smaller parties that may be starting out — the people’s party or whatever — that may raise $55,000 because the grandmother of somebody running it decided that they’d bequeath $55,000 so their grandchild could start a party. They get thrown into a red-tape process like we’ve never seen before.
Oh, I forgot. This is the government that introduced Red Tape Reduction Day — a Red Tape Reduction Day that quietly passed by a few Wednesdays ago. It quietly passed by. We didn’t celebrate the red tape. The irony with that, of course, is that any red tape we’re reducing…. I’ve spent four years here, and I see more and more red tape being increased, including the actual act itself, which created another bit of red tape. And any red tape that is to be reduced would simply have been brought in by this government in the first place because they’ve been in power for so long.
When the Red Tape Reduction Day bill was put forward, I put in two amendments. One was to peg it to April 1. That was supported by the opposition, and I was so grateful when they stood with me in supporting that this move to April 1. The second was to tie it to the fixed election date. That was voted down, again, by the government.
I can’t recall whether the opposition supported it, but I’m sure that you would have. It was reasonable to tie it to the fixed election day. The argument I made then, of course, was that the red tape that had to be reduced was brought in by this government in the first place. The best way to reduce this red tape is to replace this government.
I’m very thankful, actually. I think it won’t be necessary to actually have that amendment because a B.C. Green government or a B.C. Green coalition would eliminate Red Tape Reduction Day and proudly tear up the paper because it’s not worth the paper it’s on. The fact is it’s not celebrating anything. It’s just creating red tape. We didn’t celebrate Red Tape Reduction Day this year. Why?
We’re creating red tape in this Election Amendment Act — creating red tape to ensure that the status quo prevails and that small parties that want to start…. The People’s Political Party of New Westminster. Small parties might want to start. Now they get thrown into a red-tape nightmare.
But I forgot. We’re not going to pass this bill because we’re doing second reading today and we have no time for committee before the Lieutenant-Governor comes. So there really isn’t much point even talking about this. I think I might take my own words at that point, recognizing that there is little point talking about a bill that clearly is just a cynical ploy by the government here. Clearly, it’s not going to be passed.
So perhaps I would allow one of my colleagues here on the other side to see if they can find some words to speak in favour of this bill. I’ll be listening very attentively. I particularly hope that the member for Port Coquitlam stands up and offers some fine words on this bill. I’m sure we would think of a few things to say. I’m also hoping that my friend here in his last speech….
R. Austin: I did yesterday.
A. Weaver: Oh, my friend from Skeena did his last speech yesterday on this bill. It’s kind of a sad way to leave. So I would like to thank, on behalf of the people of British Columbia, the member for Skeena for giving his last speech on a bill that we’re not even going to pass. Sorry about that.
With that, I’ll sit and take my place in this debate. I look forward with bated breath to the words in support of this bill — the wise words, the profound words, from the opposite side. I can only hope that the member for Surrey–White Rock stands up and speaks to this bill. It would make my day, as his last speech in this Legislature. It’s a challenge. My challenge to the member for Surrey–White Rock is to make his last, final speech in the Legislature on this bill, because I really want to know what he thinks.