Assembly committee scuttles NDP campaign finance reform bill

An NDP bill that would have changed political donation rules in the territory won’t proceed, the legislative assembly members’ services board decided.

An NDP bill that would have changed political donation rules in the territory won’t proceed, the legislative assembly members’ services board decided.

On Thursday the legislative assembly released the board’s decision dated May 31.

Bill 107, a private members bill introduced by NDP leader Liz Hanson, would have banned political donations from unions, corporations and people outside the territory. And it would have also instituted a $1,500 donation limit for Yukoners.

Liberal spokesperson Jason Cunning said the bill was nothing but an attempt by the NDP to win votes.

“They never raised the issue until the 11th hour of the [legislative assembly’s] mandate,” he told the News Thursday.

Even if the board had recommended the changes, nothing could have happened before the next territorial election, because all bills that haven’t passed the assembly die when an election is called.

MLAs debated the bill in early May before being unanimously referred to the members’ services board for further discussion.

Three out of five members on the board are Yukon Party MLAs, giving the government control. The other two members are Hanson and Liberal Leader Sandy Silver.

Cunning said Silver has promised that if elected he would look into donation limits for corporations and unions.

“They [the NDP] spent four years raising money from unions,” Cunning said. “I don’t think it was very sincere.”

Silver was also against Bill 107 because he didn’t agree with the provision to ban donations from people outside the territory.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big threat if somebody’s uncle from Toronto wants to donate $100 or $500 to somebody running in the Yukon,” Cunning said.

He also claims the NDP held a big fundraiser days before they introduced the bill.

That was a hat passed around for Hanson’s birthday at the NDP convention in Edmonton last April, party spokesperson Mike Fancie told the News.

“There is a big difference between passing a hat around at a birthday party and the kind of big-ticket and outside fundraiser the Yukon Party has held in Vancouver days before the Mineral Roundup (conference),” he said.

In January 2014 the Yukon Party held a $300-a-plate fundraiser in Vancouver billed the “Yukon Party Party.”

Silver criticized the government because their flights to Vancouver for the mining conference were paid for by taxpayers.

Ministers did not claim expenses for anything besides government business, the premier said at the time.

In the end the Yukon Party benefits most from the status quo, Fancie said, because of the donations they get from the private sector.

“What we’ve done is put an opportunity on the table to empower ordinary Yukoners by making their voice stronger in our system,” Fancie said.

The NDP will re-introduce that bill if it forms the next government, he added.

But there were technical problems with the bill to start with, said Community Services minister Currie Dixon, who also sits on the board.

“It referenced the wrong section of the Act,” he told the News Friday.

There were also policy disagreements between the Yukon Party and the NDP, he noted.

The Yukon Party is in favour of capping union and corporate donations, not banning them outright, Dixon said.

All members of the board agreed to not proceed with the bill, including Hanson, he said.

“We agreed to ask the chief electoral officer to prepare a report with recommendations to cap political donations,” he said.

They also asked him to consider how to deal with third-party donations.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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