As the premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark is on the public payroll, pulling down a salary of 195,000 Canadian dollars in taxpayer money. But if that were not enough, she also gets an annual stipend of up to 50,000 Canadian dollars — nearly $40,000 — from her party, financed by political contributions.
Personal enrichment from the handouts of wealthy donors, some of whom have paid tens of thousands of dollars to meet with her at private party fund-raisers? No conflict of interest here, according to a pair of rulings last year by the province’s conflict-of-interest commissioner — whose son works for Ms. Clark.
“B.C. is the wild west,” said Duff Conacher, a founder of Democracy Watch, a Canadian civic organization that has petitioned the Supreme Court of British Columbia to void the commissioner’s decision. The group argues that there is a “reasonable apprehension of bias” because the commissioner’s son is a deputy minister in Ms. Clark’s cabinet. The court heard arguments in the case on Friday.
Ethics in politics is a hot topic right now in Ottawa. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced criticism for attending exclusive fund-raisers, and other Canadian provinces are tightening the reins on political contributions. Against that backdrop, the case in British Columbia stands out for the unabashedly cozy relationship between private interests and government officials in the province, a political state of affairs that will be tested at the ballot box in May.