Toughen rules on party registration and deregistration in B.C.

(Victoria, 1 May 2012) – IntegrityBC is calling for tougher rules governing the registration and deregistration of B.C. political parties in the wake of last month’s annual party financial filings, as the organization contrasted rules in B.C. with those in Alberta and Ontario.

 The organization believes that the province’s rules regarding the registration and deregistration of political parties do not serve the province’s democratic processes and risk needless financial exposure for B.C. taxpayers since parties have the right to issue income tax receipts for credits that are paid for by taxpayers. It’s a right that Elections BC calls “a significant benefit.”

In B.C. a political party can be registered with the signature of only “two principal officers of the party” and – not surprisingly – with 27 political parties, B.C. has the most parties of any province in Canada.

IntegrityBC contrasted that number with the requirements in Alberta and Ontario. In Alberta the registration of a political party requires signatures from 0.3 per cent of the eligible number of electors in the last general election or roughly 7,000. In Ontario, it requires 1,000 signatures from eligible voters.

And just as alarming is the minimal standards for a party to remain in good standing with Elections BC. Rules surrounding the automatic deregistration of a party are far tougher in other provinces.

In Ontario, a party leader must attest annually in writing that the “fundamental purpose of the political party is to participate in public affairs by endorsing candidates and supporting their election” and the Chief Electoral Officer retains the right to deregister a party if – in his opinion – it fails “to participate in public affairs in accordance with its Statement of Fundamental Purpose.”

In Alberta, a party will be deregistered if it does not endorse a single candidate in a general election.

Yet, according to B.C.’s Election Act, a political party will only be deregistered if it fails to run at least two candidates in a general election and in the election preceding it. In 2009, six parties failed to run a single candidate in the general election nor a candidate in the three byelections since.

Alberta has nine registered parties and all nine put candidates forward in last month’s election. Ontario has 21 registered parties and all 21 put candidates forward in last year’s election.

With the public financing of political parties in B.C. through tax credits of up to $500 per donor and the tax exempt status of political parties, it’s entirely conceivable under B.C.’s rules regarding party deregistration and the provinces fixed election dates that a political party could issue tax receipts for over eight years without ever running a candidate before being deregistered.

IntegrityBC noted that this is not an academic argument when two of the six parties that failed to run a candidate in 2009 – the B.C. Patriot party and the Advocational International Democratic party – reported over $5.8 million in assets in 2010.

In 2011, the B.C. Patriot party reported $24,653.27 in assets ($1,248,715.97 in liabilities), while the Advocational party’s 2011 report hasn’t been posted.

Past annual filings by both parties have shown approximate corresponding increases and decreases in assets and liabilities, as the two parties respectively loaned each other money.

Despite such heavy borrowing, IntegrityBC was unable to find a single news release issued by either party that has been reported upon since the last election. Neither party hosts a website, a dedicates party office nor seems to conduct traditional party activities such as developing a platform, training candidates or holding conventions.

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IntegrityBC is a non-partisan voice championing accountability and integrity in BC politics. By empowering British Columbians, IntegrityBC hopes to changes politics in BC and allow citizens to regain trust in our government.

For more information:

Dermod Travis

Executive Director, IntegrityBC

250-590-5126