Elections BC will refer its ongoing investigation into potentially illegal political donations made to the BC Liberals to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, British Columbia’s Chief Electoral Officer, Keith Archer announced Friday.
“This investigation has been referred to ensure that it will in no way impede Elections BC’s administration of the provincial general election scheduled for May 9,” an Elections BC bulletin states.
“This referral will also ensure that there is no perception that Elections BC’s ability to administer the general election in a fair, neutral and impartial manner is in any way compromised. The potential scope and timing of this matter make the RCMP the most appropriate agency to continue this investigation.”
Donations by lobbyists have come under scrutiny after a recent Globe and Mail investigation revealed that lobbyists are often being illegally reimbursed by corporations or special interests for donations made under their own names. B.C. has some of the weakest political donation rules in all of Canada. Individuals, corporations, unions and foreigners can donate unlimited amounts to political parties, yet it is illegal to contribute on another's behalf or conceal the true source of a donation.
Elections B.C. launched an investigation into the BC Liberals last week, stating there “appears to be a systemic problem that needs to be addressed.” That investigation will now be carried forward by the RCMP.
As DeSmog Canada recently reported, the democracy advocacy organization Dogwood, registered a formal complaint with Elections BC this week regarding personal donations to the BC Liberals from high-ranking Kinder Morgan staff.
Kai Nagata, Dogwood’s communications director, said recent revelations of indirect political donations, or ‘straw donors,’ is “just the tip of a very filthy iceberg.”
“What we’re seeing this week is the early chapter of what is going to become a massive exercise in piecing together the money train in B.C. politics,” Nagata told DeSmog Canada.
A report released this week by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Corporate Mapping Project found the fossil fuel industry donated $5.2 million to political parties in B.C. since 2008 — 92 per cent of which went to the BC Liberals. The BC Liberals fundraised an incredible $12 million in the last year alone.
The CCPA report found "a remarkable and disturbingly close relationship between industry and the provincial government — one that not only contradicts the province’s stated aim to fight climate change but also undermines democracy and the public interest."
Nagata said with the influx of corporate cash in B.C. it's difficult to identify if government is making major decisions — from the granting of road construction contracts to pipeline approvals — in the public's interest.
"Only way to stop that freight train is to conduct an investigation," Nagata said.
The problem of uninhibited political donations in B.C. "is very dangerous to democracy," he added. "This kind of activity leads to the detachment of people from the political process that results in perverse political outcomes we don’t want to see in B.C."
"This is an issue that underlies every other issue in B.C. and has shaped the province and the lives of the people who live here. We’re not going to be satisfied until there is an inquiry or investigation to uncover the root of this problem."
Image: Christy Clark. Photo: Province of B.C. via Flickr