B.C. Liberal Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell (Black Press files)

B.C. Liberals plan to restrict donations, raise welfare rates

Throne speech set for Thursday, government would fall on opposition vote

The B.C. Liberal government is preparing to propose new restrictions on campaign donations and offer an increase in income assistance rates in its throne speech set for Thursday.

Facing a united opposition of B.C. NDP and B.C. Green MLAs that can defeat the government in a confidence vote, the B.C. Liberals are preparing a throne speech that Premier Christy Clark has indicated will reflect the results of the election.

B.C. Liberal Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell spoke to reporters Monday, but offered no details of increased social assistance rates. Unnamed sources suggest the Christy Clark government is planning to match the NDP campaign pledge to raise income assistance rates by $100 a month, the first increase in temporary income assistance in a decade.

In addition to increasing temporary social assistance rates, the plan proposes an expansion of the government’s single parent employment program, which covers daycare, training and transportation costs for single parents on income assistance to make a transition to employment.

The increase in temporary assistance rates would be estimated to cost $31 million in the current fiscal year and $53 million for the full year of 2018-19.

NDP social development critic Selina Robinson said the sudden conversion after years of refusing income assistance increases is the act of a government desperately trying to hold onto power.

The B.C. Liberal Party stopped its voluntary reporting of donations effective the end of May, as significant corporate, union and personal donations continued after the uncertain result of the May 9 election.

READ: B.C. Liberal donations piling up

B.C. Liberal MLA Andrew Wilkinson, a former party president appointed last week as justice minister, confirmed Monday that the reform will be presented in the throne speech. He said the sudden reversal of the government’s stance on donations is a result of what candidates heard during the election campaign.

“It became pretty clear during the election campaign that our plan to have this reviewed by an expert panel was not going to be quick enough,” Wilkinson said. “It’s the conclusion of people in British Columbia that it’s time to get corporate and union donations out of party financing, and so we’re prepared to move ahead with that.”

A limit on personal donations will be part of the plan, but Wilkinson said the amount won’t be revealed until the throne speech. Federal rules limit campaign donations to individuals, up to $1,275 a year, with a maximum tax credit of $650.

Banning corporate and union donations was a demand of both opposition parties from long before the election, to which the B.C. Liberals responded only with voluntary disclosure and a promise of an independent review.

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