A look at what happened in 2014 civic election, now that we know campaign spending…

Council votes 2014 election,  source Cdnveggie

Council votes 2014 election, source Cdnveggie

(Updated) News coverage is flooding out today as reporters analyze the numbers from Elections BC regarding spending in the November 2014 civic election, released just today, February 23. To put a bit of perspective onto the mainstream media reporting, we provide a bit of context and point out a few things. Considering how aggressively and tactically Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver played the election game, it is astounding how close he and his party came to completely losing control of this city. Read below and ask yourself  — What kind of a democracy do I want to live in, and what am I willing to do about it?

  • Led by Vision Vancouver, total “official” election spending jumped to an all-time record $5.6 million in 2014 from $5.2 million in 2011. (Note that Disclosure statements are not audited by any public body, so who knows if it’s all true and if anything is missing.)
  • In Vancouver, one party (Vision Vancouver) spent a combined $3,410,533 for the Council, Park Board and School Board races outspending all challengers by a large margin (about $1.4 million more than closest challenger the NPA) .
  • Despite the power of incumbency, control of City Hall’s administration, and outspending its challengers by so much, Vision Vancouver lost control of the Vancouver Park Board and Vancouver School Board.
  • On City Council, Vision Vancouver barely held on to its majority, taking the last six seats before the cut-off point to be elected. Even then, its last councillor elected (Geoff Meggs) beat the next one only by a margin of several hundred votes. Vision’s top-polling councillors were also well below the four that beat them to be elected.
  • Vision pulled all stops and had huge and strategic support from many sectors, including unions. In addition, most mainstream media and some of the most influential civic reporters gave generous and favourable front-page coverage to Gregor Robertson, especially the week before the election.
  • On top of these points above, we have many concerns about the integrity of the election itself. Below is a list of 25 items that raise questions about the integrity of the election and still deserve investigation. Unfortunately, the Chief Election Officer has destroyed the ballots (despite requests for the Provincial government to intervene), so there is no way to ever get answers to some of the serious questions about the actual vote-counting equipment!
  • We note here that the B.C. Provincial government (to be specific, the B.C. Liberals) failed civil society by failing to impose limits on political donations and expenditures in 2014, while actually changing legislation to extend the terms of office for municipal councils by another year.  (In fact, even now, we still don’t know who started the process to extend to four years). Not unrelated but worth noting: Around Metro Vancouver, in most cases, incumbents were returned to the mayor’s seat, reinforcing the existing power structures. The outcomes we see are no accident, but a product of the system created and enabled by the Provincial government.
  • Considering how close the final outcomes were for Vancouver City Council despite the overwhelming power exerted by Vision Vancouver to win, we wonder how the election would have turned out if there were higher standards of election oversight, proper controls on election donations and spending, and a more balanced playing field.
  • It is worth noting that the Green Party of Vancouver has a $5,000 limit per donor (and does not take money from developers or fossil fuel companies). In Toronto, one person can only give a combined total of $5,000 to any number of candidates (or $750 per Councillor, or $2500 per Mayor candidate) and there’s a ban on union and corporate donors.
  • Vision Vancouver ended up owing almost $400,000 after the election. To whom? How will this be paid, and what are the conditions on this debt, political obligations, and costs to society?
  • And as we move day to day during each decision by City Council in the current term of office until 2018, remember the extreme steps the party holding the majority on Council fought to retain power — and wonder about the true strength of its mandate.

RELATED LINKS

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25 things the Chief Election Officer should analyze/report on: Election 2014 Vancouver (CityHallWatch, 19-Jan-2015)

Excerpt: In no particular order, here is our initial list of 25 issues (some confirmed, some not) that were reported publicly or privately, or that we heard about somehow from various sources. For each one, people may wonder how they may have skewed the election outcomes. (If you have any comment, evidence, or experience to share please send us an e-mail to citizenYVR@gmail.com, or add to the public comments below.)

  1. Electronic voter/voting data system was brand new in 2014. Need a public review/report of the system’s performance.
  2. First time anyone could vote at any voting station. How did that turn out?
  3. Shortage of  advance polling stations in East Vancouver. Analysis of reasons, and possible impacts on voting outcomes.
  4. Misleading address information for polling stations was sent to voters in Voter Information Cards
  5. Voters were permitted to vote without having to show identification at polling station
  6. Some people received voter cards not addressed to them, and with no ID required, anyone could have voted with those cards.
  7. Voting machines not functioning correctly. How many problems were there?
  8. 1069 Musqueam First Nations voters initially did not receive voter cards
  9. Some ballots were not secret (ballots were exposed to anyone near optical reader) – due to voting machine glitches
  10. Election sign bylaw enforcement NOT consistent, timely, or equitable
  11. Extension of voting hours. Were there any irregularities or unfair advantages?
  12. Shortage of ballots at voting stations
  13. “Plan Your Vote” online on City website. How secure were voter choices?
  14. Long waits at some polling stations resulted in some people giving up and not voting.
  15. Lack of arrangements for persons with disabilities
  16. Ballots of 593 persons were rejected due to “over votes” on the City Council race, a huge jump from 159 in 2011. What is the explanation for this?
  17. 2014 Voter Guide provided insufficient information to voter
  18. Candidate video hosting on City website cancelled. Unfair advantage to incumbents.
  19. Voter cards arrived late. For some people AFTER the election.
  20. City staff appear to have been actively working on incumbent politicians’ election campaign
  21. Election signs placed within 100 meters of voting place
  22. Candidates/parties placed signs on private property without owners’ permission
  23. What proof does the public have that no candidates benefited by exploitation of City data
  24. Role of third-party organizations in election. Did all candidates comply with legislation?
  25. Impersonating Elections Canada personnel. Reports came in to this effect.

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