Kelowna West MLA Ben Stewart has voluntarily excluded himself from the B.C. Liberal caucus after an undisclosed issue with a political donation was brought to the attention of Elections B.C.
The B.C. Liberals declined to offer details, other than that Stewart sent a letter to Elections B.C. on Thursday advising them of the situation.
“Sorry to advise I voluntarily left the B.C. Liberal caucus last evening while Elections B.C. rules on a request I sent them to investigate an irregular donation under new election financing rules,” Stewart told Black Press Friday. “I have to sit out of caucus until Elections B.C. rules on the matter. I’m confident there is no wrongdoing and this is purely an administrative matter.”
Stewart was elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2013, then stepped aside for former premier Christy Clark to run for a seat. Clark was defeated in Vancouver-Point Grey in the 2013 election where the B.C. Liberals won a fourth straight majority.
Stewart regained Kelowna West in a by-election after Clark resigned from the seat in 2017, her government having been toppled by the B.C. Green Party supporting the NDP minority.
The NDP government moved to ban corporate and union donations to political parties after taking office in 2017, with personal donations limited to $1,200 per person per year. The NDP legislation also provides for a public subsidy to parties with a minimum number of votes, a “transitional annual allowance” that started at $2.50 per vote in 2018. It is reduced to $2.25 per vote this year, and is to decline to $1.75 in 2021, the year of the next scheduled B.C. election.
The allowance paid close to $2 million to the B.C. Liberal Party and NDP in 2018, after their neck-and-neck finish in the 2017 vote. The B.C. Greens collected $830,000 in 2018.