Editorial: Big spenders are out

British Columbia’s new campaign financing laws have taken the big money out of politics, and that’s a good thing.

When the NDP was elected in 2017, it kept a promise that the B.C. Liberals had also made, to push the deep-pocketed donors out of the game. Under the new regime, unions and corporations are prohibited from donating to parties, and individuals can’t donate more than $1,225 a year.

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As columnist Les Leyne outlined on Thursday, the result has been to shrink the parties’ treasure chests and end the Liberals’ longstanding advantage.

In 2017, the NDP raised $15.3 million, compared with the Liberals’ $12.7 million. That was the last year of big money.

In 2018, the NDP’s total income was $6.6 million, the Liberals’ $4.4 million and the Greens’ $1.54 million. Those figures include a per-vote taxpayer subsidy, which will decline over several years and then be reviewed.

Even the old fundraising totals are tiny by the standards of the U.S., where President Donald Trump’s organizers have set a fundraising target of $1 billion for his 2020 re-election campaign.

The bigger the money, the more it distorts the democratic process. In B.C., the old system fed accusations that the B.C. Liberals were in the pocket of big business and the NDP were the servants of the big unions.

Removing the money doesn’t remove the biases or philosophies of the parties, but it does remove the taint.

And with less money overall to throw around, the parties might have to work a bit harder for our votes.

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