The spring session of the B.C. legislature ended Thursday with the Liberal government failing to pass its own bill to require more frequent reporting of political donations.
The Election Amendment Act, which was introduced Monday, died on the order paper as MLAs left town to prepare for the May 9 election campaign.
It was the only piece of government legislation that failed to pass after a session dominated by questions about Liberal fundraising tactics.
Premier Christy Clark had promised the bill in response to persistent criticism of her party’s “cash-for-access” dinners in which donors pay thousands to dine with her and her ministers.
Government house leader Mike de Jong said Thursday that the Liberals had hoped to pass the bill, but were unwilling to use a closure motion to end debate and force a vote.
“It was our intention, but we weren’t going to impose closure, that’s for sure,” he said, adding: “I think, generally speaking, these issues, these statutes, bills deserve to be debated.”
Besides, he said the Liberals already practise what the bill would have required by releasing lists of donors every few weeks. “Every party can do this if they wish to. We are.”
Opponents, however, said the Liberals never had any intention of passing their bill or any of the private member’s bills to ban corporate and union donations.
“That’s how committed they are to election finance reform,” said NDP Leader John Horgan.
“They were so committed that they left it until the last minute to table a bill that was dead on arrival and they’re not even going to bother to pass it. So that speaks volumes.”
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver called the Liberal bill a “cynical ploy” to give the appearance of taking action, while doing nothing.
“It was a ploy designed solely to try to get British Columbians to believe that they’re taking steps to deal with big money,” he said. “It’s a talking point, but there was no intention that this was ever going to pass. Frankly, the bill doesn’t do anything, anyway.”
Horgan said he expects fundraising to be a major issue during the campaign because voters have serious concerns about the influence of big money on provincial politics.
“They see donors to the B.C. Liberal Party getting government contracts,” he said. “They have a problem with that. The B.C. Liberals have been doing deals with the same people that have been giving them money for the past 16 years.”
But de Jong said the public is more interested in jobs and the economy than the fundraising debate that dominated the legislative session.
“Actually, the economy, job prospects, that’s all people are talking about,” he said.
“It’s easy over here to become preoccupied with the discussion that takes place back and forth.”