Pricey Times


n the U.S., it has been tradition to tell kids that anybody can grow up to be president.

And, this is sort of true.

All you really need is an American citizenship, at least 35 years on this earth — and the ability to convince many thousands to part with a cumulative total of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.

In B.C, aspirants to the highest levels of public office don’t need nearly as much money as their political brethren south of the border, but the price is steep enough that, actually, not everybody can become NDP leader, much less premier.

Take Harry Lali, the firebrand New Democratic MLA from Merritt.

He wanted to succeed Carole James as leader of British Columbia’s Official Opposition, but he ran out of money.

Running for the leadership of a political party is expensive. 

But should it be this expensive?

Lali said he would need at least $215,000 to run a campaign straight through to the April 17 vote. If each of the six candidates were to spend that amount, it would mean more than $1.2 million would have been spent on seeking the NDP leadership.

In times of economic turmoil, can spending that much money really be justified? 

True, it pales in comparison with the sums spent on running for office in the United States, but a million bucks is a million bucks.

Those seeking the B.C. Liberal leadership had to ante up $25,000 each to enter and are allowed to spend up to $450,000 each. That is potentially millions of dollars more, which only further serves to shut out all but the wealthy and those with connections to big donors.

Perhaps Cariboo-North MLA Bob Simpson has it right when he suggests the time for party politics in B.C. has passed. Simpson became the province’s fourth independent MLA when he was booted from the New Democrats after offering mild criticism of leader James.

Simpson is advocating a political landscape composed of 85 politicians with no party ties, a group that would be forced to reach a consensus when it arrives in Victoria.

At the very least, such a scenario might eliminate the need for the pricey leadership campaigns now taking place amid much of an electorate a paycheque removed from financial calamity.

–Autumn MacDonald, Observer