Cheques & balance

In the lead up to next year's provincial election, the B.C. Liberals have made a lot of promises to electors, but one important and inexpensive pledge has been markedly absent: the long-overdue reform of provincial campaign finance laws.

On Monday, the IntegrityBC advocacy group launched a campaign aimed squarely at changing these rules. It's a campaign British Columbians should take seriously.

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Compared to the tight controls at the federal practices, campaign finance in B.C. is a shameless free-for-all. Aside from the requirement to record and publish donations, there are few regulations around who donates what to whom. In effect, wealthy individuals, corporations and trade unions can pour all the resources they want into their preferred candidates in an effort to affect elections and ultimately policy.

The hazards are obvious: A system that allows that affords more power to a billfold than to a ballot is naturally open to corruption - or at the very least to unethical behaviour.

Opponents of reform have cast proposed changes as a partisan effort to undermine business-friendly candidates. This is not at all the case.

Reform would affect major supporters of the left - in the form of organized labour - as much as it would those of the right - big business. It is a fact that has been recognized over the past decade at the federal level, leading to reforms that were introduced by Liberals and later strengthened by Conservatives.

No individual party would benefit; the only winner, in the end, would be voters. It's hard to see how that would be a bad thing.

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