BC Liberal Party leadership candidate Dianne Watts argues with rival Andrew Wilkinson in televised debate, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Global BC)

BC Liberal Party leadership candidate Dianne Watts argues with rival Andrew Wilkinson in televised debate, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Global BC)

Dianne Watts, most B.C. Liberals would keep taxpayers’ money

Only Todd Stone won’t accept share of $27 million subsidy payment

B.C. Liberal leadership candidate Dianne Watts says she’s as opposed as her rivals to taking millions from taxpayers to run the party, but she won’t send it back.

Watts was a Conservative MP elected after public money for politicians was eliminated by former prime minister Stephen Harper. She agrees with the other B.C. Liberal contenders that public money shouldn’t be given to political parties, but she won’t back Kamloops Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone’s suggestion that the B.C. Liberals should refuse to accept nearly $2 million this year.

Watts noted the whole taxpayer tab for five years of per-vote subsidies amounts to $27 million, which should be spent on services such as education and social housing. But refusing the money on principle is too big a sacrifice.

“You cannot handicap candidates going into a general election and have their hands tied behind their backs,” Watts told Black Press in an interview Thursday.

Stone broke from the other leadership candidates days before announcing his campaign, vowing not to accept the public subsidy payments. Other candidates avoided the question, and their efforts to amend the legislation last fall were rejected by the narrow majority of NDP and Green MLAs.

Stone posted a video message saying as leader he won’t take the money, and Thursday he stood by that.

“We must never do anything to jeopardize the ability of the B.C. Liberal Party to grow, prosper, and especially our ability to compete against the NDP and win,” Stone said. “But I am firmly committed to the principle that not accepting taxpayer subsidies is foundational to our values as a party and foundational to the respect for taxpayers that has always been central to the B.C. Liberals.”

RELATED: B.C. Liberals battle party subsidy in legislature

In this week’s leadership debate, Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson proposed that the party dedicate the entire subsidy to a campaign to defeat the NDP’s referendum on changing the voting system, to be held next fall.

The three main parties have already shared $2.4 million in taxpayer subsidies in the first of five years of payments that the NDP government unveiled as part of their election reform bill last fall.

Payments went out to the B.C. Liberal, NDP and B.C. Green Party this month, representing half of their annual subsidy under the new election financing legislation. Payments are made by the Chief Electoral Officer twice yearly under the new law passed by the NDP with support of the Greens in the fall session.

The B.C. Liberals received the largest share of the $2.50-per-vote subsidy, $996,000, in early January. The NDP were close behind in popular vote in the 2017 election and got $994,000 for their first instalment. The B.C. Greens collected $415,000, based on nearly 17 per cent of the provincial vote in the 2017 election that netted them three seats on southern Vancouver Island.

The B.C. Liberals denounced the public subsidy and voted against it. Wilkinson led the attack as critic for Attorney General David Eby, who formulated both the election finance reform and voting system referendum laws for the NDP government.

Wilkinson denounced the public subsidy as a “travesty” and a “complete betrayal” of what the NDP promised before the 2017 election, which was to eliminate corporate and union donations and cap the personal donation amount at what Eby later pegged at $1,200 per year.

In his campaign last spring, Premier John Horgan denied there was any plan to use taxpayer subsidies to replace corporate and union donations. Horgan dismissed former premier Christy Clark’s suggestion he was planning a public subsidy as a fabrication.

BC legislatureBC Liberals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
104 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

IH is reporting the new numbers since Friday, Nov. 20

The City of Cranbrook is gearing up winter plowing operations. Townsman file photo.
City gearing up winter snow plow operations

Winter has arrived in Cranbrook. Following recent snowfalls in the region, the… Continue reading

Pictured is the Cranbrook gravel pit, located between two graveyards near the public works yard. This is where two lost kids were located by a Salvador Ready Mix driver on Thursday, November 19, 2020. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman file)
Two lost kids find their way home thanks to Salvador Ready Mix driver

The driver found the children wandering near the gravel pits in Cranbrook

Interior Health is reporting a potential COVID-19 exposure at St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School last week from Nov. 17-19.
Potential COVID-19 exposure reported at St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School

Interior Health is reporting potential COVID-19 exposures at St. Mary’s Catholic Independent… Continue reading

Planting whitebark pine seedlings. Photo courtesy of Randy Moody.
Kimberley’s Randy Moody on the challenges and triumphs of the endangered whitebark pine

Randy Moody, president of the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation of Canada (WPEFC)… Continue reading

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

Most Read