Political parties have long abused your tax dollars for political purposes. It’s become accepted practice for the governing party to engage in pre-election partisan advertising, sponsor gala events that only the privileged few can attend, and dole out money in the weeks leading up to an election.
In Opposition, the BC Liberals accused the BC NDP of “shoveling money off the back of a truck” heading into the 1997 election. Over the past two weeks, the Liberals have been doing the same thing in an overt attempt to buy back votes with your money.
The hyper-political Bollywood gala this past weekend cost taxpayers over $11 million dollars for little to no benefit.
The rationale used by various ministers is that the money they’re doling out in advance of the May 14th election is “year end money” from various ministries. It’s a bizarre rationalization for two reasons: 1) the government books were supposed to be “closed” on March 31st; and, 2) the government reported a deficit of over $1.2 billion for 2012/13.
There is no “year-end money” when you close your books with a deficit.
Another troubling aspect of this abuse of your tax dollars is that there was no transparency or fairness in deciding which organizations received this money. Calls were made to a few organizations asking if they had “shovel-ready projects,” and photo-ops were quickly arranged.
This isn’t to say that the organizations receiving pre-election cheques weren’t deserving, but there shouldn’t be a dime of taxpayer money spent without a transparent application or bidding process.
Maybe it’s time B.C. had a Legislative Budget Officer to keep tabs on party politicians and to publicly report on any political abuses of your tax dollars. We may never be completely rid of this vote-buying farce, but additional oversight could go some way toward keeping governing parties in check.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.