Clark’s party pay OK, commissioner says

Donations to B.C. Liberal Party not a personal benefit for Premier Christy Clark, says Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser

Premier Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark’s $50,000-a-year “leader’s allowance” from the B.C. Liberal Party does not breach B.C. law, Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser has ruled.

Fraser’s decision was released late Wednesday in response to a complaint filed by NDP MLA David Eby, who accused Clark of being paid out of proceeds from “exclusive” fundraising events where people paid up to $10,000 to meet with her.

“There may be circumstances where receiving a political donation places a Member [of the Legislative Assembly] in a conflict or apparent conflict of interest situation,” Fraser wrote. “However, the are generally limited to situations where a candidate receives a personal campaign contribution and due to a variety of other factors, is in a position to ‘return a favour’ to the person who made the donation.”

Fraser added that the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act “is not a moral code and I am not an arbiter of what may be political morality in the campaign finance context.”

Clark has said she inherited the allowance when she became B.C. Liberal leader in 2011, and it was instituted by the party when former premier Gordon Campbell became opposition leader in 1993. The party says Clark’s allowance is $50,000 for this year and last year, up from $45,000 a year in 2013 and 2014.

The NDP has pressed the B.C. Liberal government to ban corporate and union donations and cap personal donations, as has been done at the federal level. In the legislature this week, the opposition highlighted donations from mining and oil executive N. Murray Edwards and associated companies totalling more than $800,000.

NDP leader John Horgan has also participated in private receptions with donors who pay extra. He says his leader’s allowance has been about $5,000, mainly to provide him with clothing.