Time to crack down on no-holds-barred civic election financing (Peter Ladner in Business in Vancouver, 22-Apr-2014)

BC LegislatureThis important article was published today, written by Peter Ladner — co-founder of Business in Vancouver, former Vancouver City councillor, and fellow at the SFU Centre for Dialogue.

Below is a short summary, but we encourage people to read the whole article, spread the word, and contact your MLA to tell them what you think. Write letters to the editor of your favourite newspaper. Call in to the radio. Bills 20 and 21 are in committee now and back for final reading within days or weeks.

Time to crack down on no-holds-barred civic election financing
by Peter Ladner, in Business in Vancouver, 22-April-2014
Full article here.

Provincial legislation has to cover all municipalities, but this financing fire is burning brightest by far in Vancouver. That’s where it really needs to be doused. 

You would think, after one donor (developer Robert Macdonald) contributed $960,000 to the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) campaign in the 2011 Vancouver municipal election, that alarm bells would be clanging in Vancouver and Victoria and everywhere in between: don’t ever let this happen again!

Not that Macdonald’s egregious spending bundle was completely out of context. Vancouver voters had been warming up to his lollapalooza since Vision Vancouver tucked away a $169,000 donation in 2005 from John Lefebvre, who didn’t even live in Vancouver. The Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing most of the city’s staff, reported $127,000 in third-party expenses in Vancouver in 2011, with another $429,000 donated directly to civic parties, according to the Vancouver Sun civic spending database.

Other points, summarized by CityHallWatch:

  • With a total of $5.3 million spent in the 2011 civic election, or $14 per registered voter, the city of Vancouver is off the scale nationally for heavy spending to win municipal votes.
  • Vancouver’s spending per eligible voter is 16 times the legislated limit in Ontario.
  • At Bob Rennie’s recent pre-campaign lunch with Mayor Gregor Robertson, the $25,000-a-plate price was 10 times the $2,500 maximum donation allowed in Toronto’s mayoralty races.
  • In Alberta, $25,000 would be 50 times the $500 maximum allowable donation per candidate; in Quebec, 83 times the maximum allowable.
  • Calgary limits contributions to $5,000 per donor.
  • Draft legislation in BC [Bills 20 and 21] still allows one person to finance an entire campaign. The bills have left the most important reforms, spending limits, for a future civic election.
  • Vancouver council has asked the province for a change to the Vancouver charter to allow the city to set its own limits, or failing that, it’s considering asking civic parties to agree to voluntary limits on expenses and contributions and no corporate or union donations. The Green Party has already agreed to self-imposed limits. Perhaps other parties will follow. [CityHallWatch note – this topic goes back to City Council on April 30, with public speakers able to address Council.]
  • CityHallWatch notes that this article does not refer to the fact that the BC Liberals plan to extend the election cycle from the current three to a proposed four year election cycle, effective immediately. Our next civic election is November 15, 2014.


Report: B.C. municipal election campaign finance reform, April 14 media briefing – statements by IntegrityBC, Green, COPE


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