UPDATE: BC Liberal fundraising follows rules, Coleman says
Deputy Premier Rich Coleman says the BC Liberal Party will co-operate with an investigation of its fundraising practices, but he's confident the party is following the rules.
Coleman said Monday that the party follows the rules for collecting donations, but it's up to donors to know the law and not charge personal donations to someone else.
"If you read the [Election] Act, that's not allowed," Coleman said. "But we don't know that when we receive a cheque. If somebody buys tickets online, they buy them with a credit card, just like they can for the NDP. They don't disclose to us if they're actually collecting that money back from somebody else, and the act is very clear, you can't do that."
B.C.'s election agency has begun an investigation of donations to the BC Liberal Party, after lobbyists spoke publicly of giving money personally and then expensing it back to companies that hire them to represent their issues to the provincial government. The investigation will include other parties as well.
"These alleged contraventions include indirect political contributions and making or accepting political contributions improperly," B.C. Chief Electoral Officer Keith Archer said in a statement released Monday. "The scope of Elections BC's investigation into this matter is open-ended and will depend on how our review progresses."
Evidence of Election Act violations will be referred to B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch to determine if charges are warranted, Archer said.
The Globe and Mail reported on the weekend that lobbyists say they were pressured by the party to buy tickets to fundraising events, which they reported as individual donations and in some cases charged back to their clients.
In question period, NDP leader John Horgan called on Attorney General Suzanne Anton to restrict "big money" donations, as the NDP have proposed annually for six years.
"Instead I heard the attorney general stick to the tired Liberal line that what will make everyone happy is if we tell people every couple of weeks who's giving us money," Horgan told reporters. "That's not the issue. It's the influence that money is having on policy decisions that troubles British Columbians, and it certainly troubles me."
The BC Liberals have been under scrutiny for the unlimited corporate, union and personal donations allowed by provincial law, after the federal government and other provinces moved to restrict donations to individuals with an annual maximum.
Coleman said his government has no plan to impose new spending limits on individuals, or to bar donations from corporations and unions as the federal government and other provinces have done.