Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith (right) is being called on to resign by former mayor Steve Price after McNeil-Smith violated election expense limits. (Black Press File).

Sidney mayor called on to resign

Cliff McNeil-Smith exceeded campaign spending limit

Steve Price, the former mayor of Sidney, is calling on this successor, Cliff McNeil-Smith, to resign after he violated campaign spending limits.

“He [McNeil-Smith] is an honourable person,” said Price. “But he broke the campaign rules, and he needs to resign.”

Price’s demand for McNeil-Smith’s resignation rests on provisions in the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA). It states that an “elected candidate who exceeds their expense limit loses their seat.”

McNeil-Smith said he will remain in office until a court has heard his case. While McNeil-Smith acknowledged that this hearing could end up costing him his office, he expressed confidence.

“We believe that we can make a good case in our court application,” said McNeil-Smith.

This back-and-forth between politicial rivals ensued after McNeil-Smith told Elections B.C. that his winning mayoral campaign exceeded the mayoral spending limit by $1,877 in his total spending of $11,349.

McNeil-Smith won Sidney’s mayoral race on Oct. 20, 2018 in a landslide, with 3,740 votes to Price’s 929 votes.

RELATED: McNeil-Smith ousts incumbent for Sidney mayor’s seat

Last year’s local elections were the first time candidates, elector organizations and third-party advertising sponsors had to follow expense limits.

McNeil-Smith said his campaign accepts responsibility for the mistake, adding that his campaign will voluntarily pay the necessary fine, which amounts to twice the amount by which he exceeded the limit.

“It was an unintentional mistake,” he said.

McNeil-Smith also has imminent plans to seek legal relief. A court could hear his case in as early as two weeks, he said.

“Candidates or financial agents can apply to the Supreme Court for a court order for relief from disclosure requirements and expense limit penalties,” the LECFA reads.

A court may provide relief “only if satisfied that exceeding the expense limit did not materially affect the result of the election” and that candidate “exercised due diligence” to ensure spending limits are not exceeded.

McNeil-Smith said his application will be able to prove that the excessive spending did not materially affect the outcome.

Price insists that Elections B.C. must enforce the rule regardless of the circumstances. “It’s quite black and white,” he said. Future candidates would otherwise deliberately exceed spending limits, then seek relief, he said.

Price said the rules are unambiguous. “We were told at the start of the campaign that there is no room for error,” said Price, adding he deliberately spent several hundred dollars less than what the limit would have permitted.

Rebecca Penz, communications director with Elections B.C., said it would be up to the Supreme Court of B.C. — not Elections B.C. — to determine whether the excessive spending “materially affected” the outcome and whether McNeill-Smith showed “due diligence.”

RELATED: Tanner’s Books owner is running for Sidney mayor

Of some interest is the nature of the disclosure. Price said he found out about the violation after McNeil-Smith had publicly disclosed it. Candidates had until Jan. 18, 2019 to submit final disclosures.

Penz said Elections B.C. is currently preparing the disclosure statements and contribution data for publication, leaving open the possibility that Elections B.C. might find additional irregularities or not.

“These will be posted online in early February, and a media advisory will notify media that they are available,” she said. “At this time, I can provide you with general information about the rules but not speak to any specific situations.”

McNeil-Smith’s disclosure threatens to leave Sidney in a state of uncertainty, but the mayor said he will be able to govern until the court has rendered its ruling.

RELATED: North Saanich councillor resigns one month after election

For Price, the situation appears clear. McNeill-Smith should not wait until a judge could end up removing him from office. Rather, he should resign to set the stage for a “fair” election, said Price.

So would Price, who served one term as mayor before losing in October 2018, run in such an election? He did not commit one way or another, but added that he does have more time these days.

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Chinese Culture to light up 2019 Victoria Day Parade

Groups hopes Greater Victorians ‘view the culture, embrace the friendship’

Struggling Victoria adoption agency elects new board that intends to keep it open

The previous board announced that Choices would close May 31

Royal and McPherson Society pleads its case to Victoria council

‘Dark days’ at Royal, user groups’ weekend priorities make scheduling other entertainment challenging

Uplands Park champion to earn provincial award

B.C. Community Award for Margaret Lidkea coincides with Sunday’s volunteer celebration

Oak Bay Sgt. struggles through emotional testimony in double murder trial

Andrew Berry is charged with second-degree murder in deaths of daughters Chloe (6) and Aubrey (4)

VIDEO: Killer whales hunt for seals in Vancouver harbour

Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals like seals, sea lions, dolphins and even other whales

Wanted by Crime Stoppers

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt?

Images of one of the word’s most iconic landmarks were seared into… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C.’s waving granny gets incredible send-off from school kids

Tinney Davidson has been waving at students on their way to school for over 11 years, but is moving in a month

Island-born Snowbirds pilot enjoying homecoming in skies over Comox

Logan Reid once stood clinging onto the fence outside the Comox Air… Continue reading

Attack on student in Courtenay ‘way more than bullying’, says mom

A Comox Valley mother said “it was way more than bullying” at… Continue reading

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Blaine, Wash. inn owner, charged with smuggling people into B.C., granted bail

Robert Joseph Boule ordered to turn away anyone indicating a plan to enter Canada illegally

Most Read