Finance Reform: Green Party on Local Elections Expense Limits

Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits meeting Feb 6, 2015

Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits meeting Feb 6, 2015

The Green Party of Vancouver made a series of recommendations on Local Elections Expense Limits on April 9, 2015.

The Greens proposed spending limits in the range of 25 to 50 cents per registered voter. “Basically, we’re looking at campaigns that would be not in the $2 million to $3 million range but the $100,000-to-$200,000 range.”

The Vancouver Greens were the only party with elected representatives in the City to make a submission to the provincial committee during Phase 2 of the consultation.

It’s important to note that the release of the report by the Local Elections Expense Limits committee is imminent. On Thursday, June 25th, the committee adopted an amended report on spending limits after an in-camera meeting.

The full text of the presentation by the Vancouver Greens and the questions from the Committee can be found in the official Hansard record here. We’ve reproduced the original text of the recommendations below:

Green Party VanGreensSubmission to Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits
Jordan Bober, Director, Green Party of Vancouver

April 9, 2015

On April 1st, 2014, The Green Party of Vancouver (GPV) adopted its own internal election donation and spending limits in the absence of intent by the provincial government to legislate such limits in time for the fall 2014 municipal elections. Our limits were:

●    Max spending of $0.65 per registered voter by the Party in an election year (roughly $273,000 this year)
●    Max spending of $0.15 per registered voter by each individual candidate endorsed by the Green Party of Vancouver in an election year (roughly $63,000 this year).
●    A Mayoral candidate endorsed by the Green Party of Vancouver may spend up to $0.65 per registered voter on his or her mayoral campaign.
●    Maximum donation limit of $5000, with no donations accepted from property developers and fossil fuel companies.

In actual fact, the GPV spent less than $100k in 2014, or less than $0.25 per registered voter. Despite accounting for around 1.6% of total campaign spending in Vancouver in 2014, the GPV ran a strong campaign that saw 4 out of 7 of its candidates elected. In addition, Councillor Adriane Carr received 75,000 votes ­ – more than any councillor in Vancouver’s history.

Good news: Money isn’t the only factor in local elections.

Bad news: ​Money is still a dominant factor in local elections.

While the GPV had sufficient resources to run a good campaign that placed us neck­-and­-neck (­vancouver­npa­greens­are­neck­and­neck­council­race­poll­shows) with its big­-spending rivals (Vision Vancouver (which spent $3.4 million) and the NPA (which spent $2.4 million)) during the campaign, its $100k campaign could not afford the major advertising blitzes of its rivals in the final days of the campaign. Ultimately, such last­ minute advertising saturation on TV, radio and in print still has a large influence on the casual voter and the outcome of the election.

The internal spending limits set by the GPV in 2014 were intentionally set higher than we realistically expected to spend, given our donation restrictions. This was done in the hope that traditionally big­spending parties such as Vision and the NPA could be persuaded to follow our lead with similar voluntary limits. After all, by our formula, both parties would still have been allowed to spend up to $800,000, still a hefty sum compared with campaign spending in other Canadian cities, but still a large decrease in their historical spending patterns.

However, especially if donation limits and contributor class restrictions are not up for consideration by this Committee at this time (a fact that we deeply deplore, given that such limits have been repeatedly requested by Vancouver City Council, Vancouver elector organizations and other civic groups), the Green Party of Vancouver would be in favour of even tighter spending limits than our 2014 policy currently allows. A $0.25 to $0.50 per eligible voter TOTAL spending cap for elector organizations (including individual spending by candidates endorsed by the EO) would be a reasonable range in our view. In 2014, this would have allowed for spending of $103,994 to $207,989. As the Green Party of Vancouver has demonstrated, it is more than possible to run a strong campaign that engages voters with that level of spending.

Spending between elections:

Three out of four years, elector organizations do not find themselves in an election year. We believe that it is important that elector organizations be subject to spending limits and reporting requirements in those years as well. The spending limit in non­-election years should be set to no more than $0.25 per eligible voter in the most recent election, an amount that would allow elector organizations to maintain baseline operations including one or two permanent staff members.

Third party spending:

While it is important that other third party groups have the opportunity to advance their issues during an election period, it is important that third party spending not provide a vehicle for elector organizations to circumvent the spending limits that they are subject to. Limits on third party spending should therefore be set significantly lower than the limits on elector organizations.

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