Proposed changes to financing laws could change the dynamics of next year’s municipal campaign

Saanich gets behind new municipal spending rules

Mayor suggests other measures, such as term limits, needed to level playing field

Local politicians applaud provincial efforts to change the financing of municipal elections, but also urge other steps.

The provincial government this week tabled legislation prohibiting corporate and union donations to individual candidates and slates. The provincial government also plans to limit individual donations to candidates to $1,200 per person, per year. The limits would be effective for the 2018 municipal elections.

Mayor Richard Atwell said he supports the move, but adds more needs to be done to “level the playing field” between incumbents and challengers. “When the same set of rules apply to everyone the system appears fair,” he said. However, the legislation may disadvantage new candidates.

Incumbents need to raise and spend less money, as they have already paid for their signs from previous elections, he said. “Incumbents can also use their council salaries, to help fund their re-election,” he said. “Many councillors have a pension or second income while challengers risk family savings and struggle to raise funds as unknown candidates.”

Provincial parties are also active in municipal elections, providing volunteers and other resources off book. “If the goal is to reduce outside influence, the proposed legislation will improve that,” he said. “If the goal is to keep democracy vibrant, then we need to look to term limits and other restrictions on influence to further level the playing field.”

Other members of council agreed with the general direction of the legislation, but also raise questions.

“I have always supported this,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff. But she would like to see the province revise the rules around total election expenses allowed. Under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, mayoral candidates competing in communities with populations between 15,000 and 150,000 can spend 55 cents per person, or up to $63,250. Councillor candidates can spend 28 cents per person, or up to $32,200.

Brownoff said the province should use the number of eligible voters rather than the total population to calculate limits. “With these high campaign expenses allowed, you are removing opportunity for average citizens to run and possibly more candidates with disposable income to use total election expense limit allow to run campaign,” she said.

Coun. Fred Haynes said it is positive that sources and amounts of funding are being scrutinized. “It is good to remove any opportunity for undue influence, and to have a level playing field. It is not good if it makes mounting a campaign even harder, especially for new candidates,” he said. “Removing union and corporations [donations] means candidates will need to work harder to convince individuals to help cover campaign costs.”

Coun. Dean Murdock said the proposed legislation promises to put municipal politics on more equal footing. “Big budget election campaigns backed by big political donors represent a barrier to most residents who want to run for [council] to make a difference in the community they live in,” he said.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has supported the change for several years, UBCM delegates this year supported a motion by Oak Bay and Victoria councils to get corporate and union money out of local elections.

Coun. Susan Brice cited this history. “I enthusiastically backed the motion presented by Oak Bay at UBCM that requested this change,” she said. “I think that these restrictions along with lowering an individual donation to $1,200 should prevent any actual or appearance of influence.”

Coun. Colin Plant said he generally favours anany initiative that levels the playing field for all candidates. “I am hopeful the new legislation will achieve this with future municipal elections,” he said.

However,he is not sure how the changes will play out. “I suspect the result of this legislation will be less expensive campaigns being conducted because candidates will have less funds as a result of only receiving personal donations,” he said. But the changes might also mean more individuals would donate to campaigns because they realize the impact of their donation, he said. “I’m not entirely sure how it will play out in 2018,” he said.

Just Posted

‘Emma Fillipoff Is (still) Missing’

New podcast sheds some light on five-year-old case of missing Victoria woman

Tenant relocation plan recommended in Victoria city staff report

City to consider renter protection program Thursday

Oak Bay teacher wins 91.3 the Zone’s Teacher of the Month

French teacher at École Willows School wins custom Converse from Baggins and Big Wheel gift cards

New safety doors aim to protect transit drivers

These new full-length doors will be tested in Victoria, Kelowna and Abbotsford

Victoria considers 2020 North American Indigenous Games bid

Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam says committee meets next week

Oak Bay teacher wins 91.3 the Zone’s Teacher of the Month

French teacher at École Willows School wins custom Converse from Baggins and Big Wheel gift cards

UPDATE: B.C. cat torture recorded on Snapchat, sent to owner

“I can’t stop shaking,” Haglund said. “Last night was so bad my teeth were clattering.”

Education minister blasts Chilliwack school trustee on gender issues

Fleming calls Neufeld’s behaviour ‘shameful’ and ‘unacceptable’

Local businesses help by replace aging wheels

Collabortive effort assists with charitable deliveries

‘Fresh eyes’ looking into three missing Cowichan Tribes men

First Nations want answers to their disappearances

FortisBC LNG site exports first shipment of gas to China

The shipment is part of a pilot project that could see more exports in the future.

BC RCMP hunt for white SUV that rammed cruiser

Kamloops RCMP are looking for a white SUV headed north on the Yellowhead Highway

B.C. to reimburse methadone patients for taking clinic fees off welfare cheques

Provincial government agrees to pay back more than $5.5 million in deducted fees

Stiff fine for B.C. man caught trafficking bear parts

A Cache Creek resident was charged after an undercover sting operation by conservation officers

Most Read