Political parties whose fundraising abilities have been curtailed by COVID-19 have mostly taken advantage of Ottawa’s wage subsidy, including “indirectly” the B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson says.
The B.C. Liberals and B.C. Green Party have resorted to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, a federal pandemic program that runs retroactively from March 15 to Aug. 29. The B.C. NDP have indicated they did not apply for the subsidy covering up to 75 per cent of wages, but the federal NDP have and Wilkinson said the uniquely integrated federal-provincial NDP amounts to the same thing.
“All of the parties in Canada that are relevant have taken the money, including the federal NDP, Tories, Liberals, Greens and the provincial Greens directly, and we assume the provincial NDP indirectly, because they’re one and the same party federally and provincially,” Wilkinson said in an interview.
Raj Sihota, provincial director of the B.C. NDP, said Wilkinson’s assumption is wrong, and what he is implying would be a violation of financing rules under the federal Election Act.
“There are no federal NDP staffers working for the B.C. NDP,” Sihota said in a statement. “No money flows from the federal NDP to the B.C. NDP or vice versa.”
Canadian political parties qualify because they have charitable status, with generous tax credits for people donating. For B.C. parties, the maximum credit is $500 a year, refunding 75 per cent of the first $100 contributed, 50 per cent of the next $450 and a third of the next $600.
Political parties qualify for the federal wage subsidy because their fundraising events can’t be held during the coronavirus pandemic restrictions on gatherings.
Corporate and union donations to B.C. parties were halted by the John Horgan NDP government in 2017, replaced with a $2.50-per-vote taxpayer subsidy to parties that Horgan had specifically ruled out during the 2017 election campaign. That subsidy declined to $2 per vote in 2020 and is scheduled to be reduced to $1.75 next year, after paying out nearly $2 million each to the NDP and B.C. Liberals in 2018, and $830,000 to the B.C. Greens.
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) September 18, 2017
Wilkinson said aside from two reporters, he has heard no public feedback on the decision to accept the wage subsidy for party employees, paid from donations plus the wage subsidy in addition to the taxpayer-funded caucus staff allotted to each party.
“So we’re seeing basically no commentary on this at all,” Wilkinson said.