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 Dodge Ram pickup similar to this one was involved in a hit-and-run in Lake Country on Saturday, Jan. 16. (Crime Stoppers photo)
Stolen truck involved in Lake Country hit-and-run

Incident happened on Highway 97 just before 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16

The Okanagan Regional Library is holding a pair of online contests for its young readers. (File photo)
Okanagan Regional Library challenges young readers

Pair of contests online aimed at kids aged up to 18

A water outage to fix a hydrant valve is scheduled for Lake Country on Tuesday, Jan. 26, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (District of Lake Country image)
Lake Country water outage planned

Affects 20 properties on Seaton Road between Read Road and Chase Road from 9-2 Tuesday, Jan. 26

Kelowna Fire Department. (FILE)
Early morning downtown Kelowna dumpster fire deemed suspicious

RCMP and the Kelowna Fire Department will conduct investigations into the cause of the blaze

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

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

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

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

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Most Read