It appears the days of corporate donations to political parties in P.E.I. are over. After flip-flopping several times over the past three years, the government came down on the side of common sense Thursday by tabling legislation to amend the Election Expenses Act. One of three major changes includes eliminating corporate and union donations. Premier Wade MacLauchlan said it became clear that many Islanders were only comfortable with allowing donations from individual P.E.I. residents.
The parties most negatively affected by the ban are the governing Liberals and Official Opposition Progressive Conservatives – and both deserve credit for embracing the reforms. PC Leader James Aylward has been consistent on the issue. He didn’t allow corporate or union donations to his leadership campaign last year, and has long advocated against those groups donating to political parties.
The PCs are still trying to pay off a debt from the last election and are looking for ways to find funds. This bill will make fund-raising even more difficult so the PCs are really biting the proverbial bullet on this one. Mr. Aylward says he’s accountable to Islanders and no one else – an admirable stance indeed.
In 2016, Premier MacLauchlan said his government would get rid of corporate and union political donations but later backtracked to utter vague suggestions about limits on all political donations. The Green Party – which only accepts personal donations – and the NDP stand to gain the most, as the two mainline parties are brought back to this more level playing field. The new legislation also limits donations to $3,000 per year, per person to each party or independent candidate – the same as the federal limit. As expected, Green leader Peter Bevan-Baker applauds the changes as a positive step forward and which brings P.E.I. in line with other provinces.
The election bill is a fine example of parties putting the interests of Islanders above their own. The reforms are welcome.
Thursday’s legislative success included a bill to enable the referendum on electoral reform, which also drew wide, early support. They helped deflect attention from the latest controversy around the problem-plagued Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). Monday, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) arrested two people for allegedly helping to set up fake addresses for Chinese immigrants who came to P.E.I. under PNP. The agency said there were hundreds of immigrants who used the same addresses, including the Sherwood Motel in Charlottetown. It was unsettling to think that, “here we go again.”
The provincial government is trying to distance itself from this latest problem by arguing it’s largely a federal issue and that Ottawa failed to pass along key information. The province claims there were only 17 people who used the motel as their address for PNP applications, a number small enough to avoid detection. It seems like a stretch, so it will be interesting to see how this latest drama unfolds.
While the province is trying to extricate itself from this latest PNP predicament, at least it struck the right chords in other areas.