Legislative Update from CUPE BC

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

New Provincial Election Finance Laws Tabled: Legislation was introduced to put an end to corporate and union donations. The act will also: limit individual contributions to $1,200 a year, the second-lowest limit in Canada; ban out-of-province donations; cap contributions to third-party election advertisers; require ongoing public reporting of all fundraisers attended by major party leaders, cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries, including those held in private residences; reduce campaign spending limits for candidates and political parties by about 25%; and set new fines and penalties for contraventions of election financing and advertising laws. The bill also introduces a transitional annual allowance for political parties over a set term of five years. The allowance diminishes in value over time and is intended to help political parties transition to the new campaign finance rules. A special committee of the legislature will review the allowance to determine if it should be continued. If no action is taken, the allowance will expire in 2022. Note that unions and corporations can still donate to political parties until the bill is passed, but any contributions that will be made illegal by the bill that are received before that time may only be used to pay down debt or for non-election purposes.

Fiscal Review: Carole James, Finance Minister, has announced a review of financial information submitted to the Province by certain Crown corporations and the K-12, university, colleges and health sectors that will be used to help inform the development of Budget 2018 and the next three-year fiscal plan. Independent consultants will help the provincial government assess the quality of financial information built into the baseline assumptions in the budget development process. The goal of the review is to assess the information, evaluate risks and identify options that will assist the Province with developing, monitoring and managing to its overall fiscal plan targets.

New Health Authority Board Chairs: Relevant to our members, Leah Hollins, a former deputy minister of health for the province and chair of Canadian Blood Services board was named chair of Island Health and Jim Sinclair, former BC Federation of Labour President, was named chair of Fraser Health Authority. Ron Mattson, a former civil servant who was one of four health researchers wrongly fired in an incident that sparked political scandal in 2012, was named to the Island Health board. No changes were made to the existing Vancouver Coastal Health chair. A number of new Board members were also appointed.

Bus Passes for People on Disability Assistance to be Reinstated: Effective January 1, 2018, annual bus passes will be available to people on disability assistance through a new transportation supplement.

Lobbyist Rules to be Tightened: New legislation was introduced to toughen the rules around political lobbying, by banning former public office holders and their senior staff from lobbying government for two years after leaving government. It will also require lobbyists to disclose the names of any staff person working in a minister or MLA’s office with whom they speak.

Government Steps Up Action on Overdose Crisis: A new community crisis innovation fund of $3 million is targeted at community-based prevention, early-intervention and harm reduction programs. Health authorities are scaling up rapid access to medication treatments for opioid addiction. New distribution sites of no-cost naloxone kits are being set up at community pharmacies throughout the province. A Mobile Response Team was created to provide training, education and crisis response to community-based organizations responding to multiple overdoses. And a new public awareness campaign, in partnership with WorkSafeBC, BC Restaurant & Food Services Association and BC Building Trades Council will build awareness on how to stay safe and where to reach out for support.