The provincial government has taken steps to remove what it calls “big money influence” from municipal election campaigns.
Targeted to take effect in the 2018 civic elections, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson announced the “wild west” fundraising attitude of municipal election campaigns will end, where any group or individual could make unlimited donations to a candidate.
Robinson said new legislation on the NDP government’s agenda for adoption will level the playing field for all candidates, saying that people expressing ideas should take precedence over fundraising.
Robinson said the government proposes to ban all corporate and union donations to municipal election campaigns, and contributions from individuals will be limited to $1,200 per candidate, per year.
As well, out of province donations will also be banned.
“We want a level playing field for all candidates,” said Robinson, noting that message has been consistently repeated in municipal election funding public surveys and by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
“We have heard the message. People want successful and fair election campaigns at the local level free of big money influence. We want to create a level playing field for all candidates beginning with the 2018 municipal elections.”
Wendy Booth, president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, said the fundraising issue dates back to 2009 initiated by the City of Vancouver, with a request for an outright ban on corporate and union contributions by the UBCM in 2015, and the resolution adopted again at the 2017 convention.
“Elections at the municipal level shouldn’t be won or lost based on who raises the most money. We recognize potential large donations from groups or individuals can skew campaigns,” said Booth.
In Kelowna, large donations for candidates has been credited with playing a decisive role in election outcome, most notably back in 2012 when the FourChange group spent $30,000 to target four incumbents for defeat, then its successor ForKelowna encouraging voters to support four incumbents and Basran in 2014.
In the 2014 mayoral election, Mayor Colin Basran outspent challenger Sharon Shepherd by a margin of $75,841 to $22,000.
In other communities, talk of municipal electoral fundraising reform has been called a misdirected focus, saying it applies more to larger city centres like Victoria and Vancouver.
Robinson noted that in Vancouver, one individual donated $943,000 to a civic party and at the Sunshine Coast $20,000 was donated to a mayoral candidate.
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