NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. – British Columbia’s premier says she is no longer receiving an annual stipend from her political party because the payment has become a distraction.
Christy Clark told media at an unrelated event Friday that she has asked the B.C. Liberal Party to re-imburse her for individual expenses instead of giving her the lump-sum payment.
“I think it’s a better way to do it,” she said.
The Liberals confirmed last spring that Clark is paid up to $50,000 per year for party work on top of her $195,000 salary.
Clark said different parties do things differently and she has decided her party should move to a new system, partially because it had become a distraction.
The stipend formed part of two conflict of interest complaints filed against Clark last year by an opposition member of the legislature and a citizen advocacy group.
The complaints also alleged the premier was in a conflict of interest because she attends exclusive fundraising events where tickets are sold for thousands of dollars.
Paul Fraser, the province’s conflict of interest commissioner, has twice cleared Clark of wrongdoing, saying the money amounts to political benefits, not personal ones.
Clark also addressed recent criticism over political donations, saying the current system involving private donors beats the alternative of a taxpayer funded system.
Opposition NDP Leader John Horgan said earlier this week that he plans to introduce a bill in the legislature next month that would ban all corporate and union donations to the province’s political parties.
“We need to take big money out of politics,” he said.
Horgan has been critical of the Liberal’s fundraising, and says that just 185 donors account for half of the $12.3 million raised by the party last year.
Clark said Friday that there are two ways parties can get political money, either from private citizens or from taxpayers.
“There are really only two models,” she said. “Neither of them are perfect, but I would argue that taxpayers would rather see their money going into (non-profit organizations), rather see it go into health care, rather see it go into special needs teachers in classrooms.”