Premier Christy Clark lays low as donations scandal grows
Reporters hoping to ask Premier about the controversy that’s dominated the news cycle after a Tuesday speech were left disappointed.
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As the province’s lax rules surrounding political donations — letting corporations, unions and even non-Canadians give unlimited millions — continue to cause outcry over cash-for-access to politicians, and an RCMP criminal investigation, the government kept largely quiet on the issue after announcing a post-election “independent panel” to examine the issue.
Tuesday began with reporters and television cameras waiting at the doors of the Vancouver Convention Centre, where Premier Christy Clark gave a speech at the B.C.-funded Tech Summit.
Metro and other journalists waiting outside hoped to ask Clark about the growing scandal that’s dominated the news cycle just two months ahead of a pivotal provincial election. But Clark did not make herself available to the media.
If she's re-elected on May 9, Clark has promised to launch an "independent panel" to review political donations in B.C. — which Democracy Watch told Metro amounts to a "system of legalized bribery," and the proposal "too little, too late."
But Clark's vow to examine the province's unlimited political donations, even from outside the province and country, wouldn't actually take effect until after a provincial election her BC Liberals are entering with a more-than $12-million war chest, and obviously only if her party is re-elected.
Following the panel proposal and BC Liberal legislation requiring more frequent donation disclosures, in the Legislature on Monday afternoon, B.C. New Democrat leader John Horgan questioned Clark on the issue, only to be repeatedly rebuffed by the BC Liberals’ speaker, Linda Reid.
“My question to the Premier of B.C. is: what will it take for you to get big money out of the politics here in B.C.?” Horgan asked, only to be told questions aren’t allowed to be directed at individuals, but through the Speaker.
When Horgan rephrased his question, however, Reid interjected: “Members will be aware that the Chair has ruled that questions can only be asked of ministerial responsibility. Next question.”
That continued with Reid rejecting Horgan’s queries four times with, “New question.”
But Premier Clark eventually responded, blasting Horgan’s own cash-for-access fundraisers, citing an NDP invitation to “discuss the exciting upcoming provincial election. This is your best opportunity to hear from John,” she said. “… It's also my understanding that this letter was followed up by a phone call, inviting people to come to a pre-reception that would only cost them $10,000.
“Now, as private cash-for-access opportunities go, that is cheap for the Leader of the Opposition. We know that he has previously said he'd sit down with anyone for $50,000. All we know now: the price has gone down, but he still has a price.”
When NDP democratic reform Gary Holman tried a similar line of questioning, Reid told him “New question” as well — five times. And likewise NDP social development critic Michelle Mungall was rebuffed with “New question” four times.
Editor's note: After this story ran, the premier's press secretary contacted Metro to state that the premier entered and exited the building through the front entrance. The story has been changed to reflect that.