The province is cracking down on excessive municipal election spending, but even if the new rules were in place during the election last fall, none of Penticton’s elected officials would have exceeded the limits.
Before B.C.’s 2018 municipal elections, a new formula be in effect to determine how much candidates can spend based upon the size of their community. With a population of 32,877, the limit to run for mayor is capped at $24,873.85. Mayor Andrew Jakubeit’s 2014 campaign cost $21,888, and his rival John Vassilaki spent $19,125.
Mayor Jakubeit said it’s not a bad idea to have some limits in place and said he’s in favour of the new rules, though he emphasized the importance of finances to a campaign.
“It takes money to tell the populace what your beliefs are and why you’d be a good candidate,” he said. “It’s naive to think you could get into council and not spend any money.”
But it’s important to maintain a balance, he said.
“After a while it becomes a proliferation of signs, ads, and it can before overwhelming – to the point where it can be counter-productive.”
The limit for a councillor’s campaign will be set at half of the mayor’s, which is $12,436.93. Unsuccessful candidate Tim Hodgkinson, whose campaign was impeded by illness, would have come close at $12,009. The highest-spending candidate to win a seat was Campbell Watt at $7,465.
Regardless of a potential candidate’s access to money, Mayor Jakubeit encouraged anybody who thinks they can make a positive difference to consider running.
“They should be encouraged to run and showcase why they can make a difference.” Because despite how much is invested into a campaign, “you need to have a strong candidate in the first place.”
When asked if the new rules could have an adverse affect on elections, Mayor Jakubeit said it’s possible that third-party advertising could become more prevalent, as endorsements that aren’t co-ordinated with the candidate won’t be subject to the spending limit.
However “they’re trying to get a better handle on documenting all types of costs and expenditures,” he said.
While limitless spending wasn’t abused in Penticton, other parts of the province saw it run amok.
The Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps spent $88,564 to win her 2014 campaign. Based on the population of her city, a mayoral candidate in Victoria would only be able to spend around $52,000 under the new rules. Helps defeated incumbent Dean Fortin, whose campaign cost him $128,636. The third-place finisher in that city also exceeded $100,000 in her campaign.
The new spending rules will also take effect on school board trustees, whose spending limits will be capped in line with candidates for council. Accounting for the limits will begin at the start of the calendar year of each municipal election. Regulations for municipal election spending have already been set in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.