B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver (Black Press)

Greens didn’t demand party subsidy, Andrew Weaver says

Premier John Horgan under fire for NDP flip-flop on funding

Replacing corporate and union donations with a multi-million-dollar public subsidy over the next five years wasn’t the B.C. Green Party’s idea, leader Andrew Weaver says.

The Greens would benefit to the tune of $830,000 in 2018, while the B.C. Liberals and NDP would each reap about $1.9 million next year, under a plan revealed Monday to pay qualified parties $2.50 per vote. Attorney General David Eby describes the money as a “transition allowance” to help established parties wean themselves off big donations that have been a feature of B.C. politics for years.

Weaver said Tuesday he supports the transition fund, but it wasn’t his idea. He added that he wasn’t aware that Premier John Horgan had explicitly promised during the last election campaign to get “big money” out of politics and not replace it with public money.

After a question period in the B.C. legislature in which Horgan faced demands to explain his change of position, he told reporters the policy was developed in consultation with the B.C. Greens.

“Upon forming a government, admittedly a minority government, we did a review of other jurisdictions in Canada,” Horgan said. “We rejected pure public financing as is done in Ontario, as is done in Quebec, and instead put in place a transition fund that will disappear at the end of this parliament.”

Horgan called the transition allowance a “modest cost to taxpayers.” It would transfer a total of more than $16 million to the three qualifying parties that are represented in the legislature over the next five years, and could be extended if an all-party committee decides the parties still need it.

In question period, B.C. Liberal house leader Mike de Jong read several media interview quotes back to Horgan in which he stated before the 2017 election that he had no intention of replacing union and corporate donations with a public subsidy.

“If anyone thinks that after five years, the NDP and the Green Party are going to turn off the tap on public funding of political parties, I’ve got a bridge in Richmond that I’d like to sell them,” de Jong said.