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British Columbia to ban corporate, union political donations

VANCOUVER, Sept 18 (Reuters) - British Columbia's new government on Monday introduced legislation to ban corporate and union donations to political parties in the coastal Canadian province, which critics have called the "Wild West" of campaign finance.

The ban by the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), which took office eight weeks ago, also limits individual campaign donations to C$1,200 ($976.24) and bars out-of-province contributions, the British Columbia government said in a statement.

The legislation is expected to pass as the NDP holds a parliamentary majority through a deal with the Green Party, which supports the ban.

Political fundraising has been a thorny campaign issue in British Columbia, which the New York Times in January called the "Wild West of Canadian political cash" because of "unabashedly cozy relationships between private interests and government officials".

The province's previous Liberal government came in for frequent criticism from other political parties and media commentators for holding cash-for-access fundraisers, which gave wealthy donors an audience with then-premier Christy Clark.

Banning corporate and union donations was a campaign pledge for the NDP in a spring cliffhanger election in which the Liberals were reduced to a minority.

Backed by the provincial Green Party, the NDP ousted the Liberal Party in July. The province's right-leaning Liberals are not related to Justin Trudeau's left-leaning federal Liberal Party.

The NDP, however, has itself been criticized by others, including its Green Party partner, for accepting union donations.

The Liberals raised C$13.1-million in donations last year, while the NDP raised C$6.2-million.

Several of Canada's other provinces have been tightening campaign finance rules in recent years, although they vary widely. ($1 = 1.2292 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Additional reporting by Ethan Lou in Calgary, Alberta; Editing by Sandra Maler)