Breakfast with premier for $28 or dinner for $5,000?

While a handful of well-heeled Liberal Party donors will dine with Christy Clark tonight, her constituents can question her in the morning.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark

Think of it as a light version of access to B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

Tomorrow morning, after a controversial Liberal Party fundraiser tonight at West Kelowna’s Mission Hill Winery where a reported 20 well-heeled supporters will have Clark’s ear over dinner for $5,000 apiece, her constituents are invited to a Greater Westside Board of Trade breakfast to hear her speak, ask questions and, as advertising for the event said, “bring suggestions.”

Tickets for the breakfast cost $28 each, with the money going to the board of trade.

Unlike the party fundraiser, those attending the breakfast are not expected to get the same one-on-one time with Clark, who is the MLA for Westside-Kelowna.

News of the high-priced fundraiser here hit the headlines last week in light of the secrecy surrounding it, B.C.’s lax laws on political contributions, Clark’s recent announcement she will forego a $50,000 stipend she was receiving from her party on top of her $195,000 MLA and premier’s salary and a decision by Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, B.C.’s agriculture minister to skip a previous commitment to attend a large gathering of farmers in Abbotsford to, instead, go the fundraiser.

After news of his decision broke, Letnick reversed his initial reversal and said he would go, in fact, be in Abbotsford and not at the fundraiser.

But while critics have railed about what they consider “pay-for-play” opportunities to gain access to the premier, two complaints by the NDP’s David Eby to B.C.’s conflict commissioner about Clark attending such high-priced Liberal Party fundraisers were rejected last year. Paul Fraser said they are not conflicts because they do not amount to a private interest for Clark. The money raised goes to the party, he said.

Ironically, it was Eby who defeated Clark in her previous Vancouver-Pt. Grey riding in the last provincial election, prompting her to come to the Central Okanagan to take the Westside-Kelowna seat originally retained for the Liberals by Ben Stewart. Stewart stepped down weeks after the election in 2013 so Clark could run here and was rewarded with an appointment to China as the province’s trade representative.

Critics of current party fundraising system in B.C. say there is an appearance of rich donors seeming to have more access to the premier than the general public.

The NDP has repeatedly tried to change the fundraising rules by calling for the banning of contributions from corporations and large organizations, but the Liberal government has rejected its proposals. It says such a move would amount to having taxpayers forced to pay for the operations of political parties whether they support them or not.

It has, however,promised to to bring in new rules about reporting political contributions.

The NDP also hold party fundraisers that, while not as successful in pulling in the amount of money that the Liberals have in recent years, do charge hundreds of dollars to attend.

In a recent article on the province’s rules concerning political party fundraising, the New York Times described B.C. as the ‘wild West” when it comes to fundraising.



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