Pull the plug on political party pay for B.C. premier

Exorbitant annual BC Liberal Party pay to Christy Clark prompts questions of ethics, conflict of interest.

You know what B.C. stands for? Bring Cash.

Unfortunately, that old Alberta joke has nothing to do with the risk of fines for our comparatively under-enforced speed limits.

It does have something to do with the cost of doing business in British Columbia.

Well, as it turns out, Premier Christ Clark is truly a B.C. gal.

It was recently revealed that the premier, since becoming an MLA in 2011, has received about $300,000 from the B.C Liberal Party, including a $50,000 payment (or car allowance as she once put it)  in 2015. This is, of course, on top of the $195,468 salary and expenses she receives to run the province.

While it was known the premier receives an annual “top-up” from the party, the amount was only just disclosed as a result of a Globe and Mail report.

This top-up is money is collected through tax-deductible political donations and party fundraisers, such as a $5,000-a plate private Liberal Party dinner in Oct. 2014, for which 21 individuals paid to have exclusive access to the premier. Or how about a more recent dinner, where 10 guests paid $10,000 each to bend the premier’s ear.

The Liberal Party argue this is a long-standing practice and is reported annually in Clark’s MLA disclosure (albeit without any actual figures). NDP MLA David Eby has a different take. He’s calling it a conflict of interest. The Liberals responded to this accusation by laughing it off. Eby, however, has referred the matter to the province’s Conflict of Interest Commission.

Is the premier in conflict? The Members Conflict of Interest Act states a member has an apparent conflict of interest if, “there is a reasonable perception, which a reasonably well informed person could properly have, that the member’s ability to exercise an official power or perform an official duty or function must have been affected by his or her private interest.” The act also speaks to the receipt of gifts or benefits that connect directly or indirectly with the performance of his or her duties.

Legally, the premier may be in the clear. As for perception, frankly, it looks as though she is selling access through party donations, and then pocketing a good portion of the money.

There’s a reason other provinces have abandoned this practice. It’s time for B.C. to follow suit.