(Updated 6 pm, after the July 21 meeting: This motion could have been a game changer. Councillor Carr’s motion, would have been a timely response to the BC Government’s unsatisfactory plans for election finance reform, and could have been applied immediately. During the meeting, however, Councillor Andrea Reimer used a tactic to kill the motion and prevent it from coming to Council, also preventing speakers from addressing Council. Stressing that she has been working on finance reforms for ten years now, she asserted the motion was “technically out of order” and presented a motion to refer it to a “committee” supposedly mandated by City Council on February 3, 2015. However, as far as we can tell, this committee does not exist, and no action has been taken. See Clr Reimer’s motion and the Council vote at bottom of this post, plus fresh media links. Despite the potential for Carr’s motion to transform Vancouver politics, as of this moment, other than three short clips on broadcast or online media in the past two days, not a single line of print appeared in any of the main print media, by Vancouver’s regular civic reporters. Fresh update: From Chief Election Officer – Council motion 3-Feb-2015 called for creation of an “independent committee” and asks staff to return with proposed terms of reference and membership. CityHallWatch learned today that “staff expect to bring forward a report” on this in September 2015. In short: The enigmatic committee referred to by Councillor Reimer currently does NOT exist. It has no name, no terms of reference, no member, no work plan, no resources. It is still nothing more than a concept five months later, and will remain so for months ahead.)
A motion by City Councillor Adriane Carr going to Council on July 21, 2015, seeks to have Vancouver take charge and institute concrete and immediate local election finance reforms. This is in response to the Province’s election spending limits report, which fails to address many of the deepest public concerns over the past decade about the integrity of civic elections.
We encourage people to study the issue, and sign up to speak to the motion, which would likely be pushed over to a committee meeting the morning of the next day, Wednesday, July 22.
MOTION: Vancouver Response to Recommendations of the Special Committee on Local Election Expense Limits.
The motion includes a proposed ban on donations from corporations or unions to local elections in Vancouver; letting only individuals resident in BC make donations; and setting a limit per individual of $5,000 total to all candidates and elector organizations combined, per year. (Next civic elections are in 2018.) The motion would require local political parties (“elector organizations”) to file annual disclosure forms for more transparency by revealing donors in the years between elections (and eliminate the so-called “dark money”).
There would also be an allowance for the the City to set lower spending limits than those determined by the Province. The Province’s new spending limits report would still allow a local party running a full slate of candidates to spend $3 million on an election; this is one of the reasons that prompted the motion to be brought forward. Ironically, the Province’s stated goal is to create a “level playing field” in civic politics by introducing spending limits.
It’s important to note that the majority of the current group of elected representatives in Vancouver are from parties that ran campaigns of $2.2 million or more (10 out of 11 on Council, 5 out of 7 on Park Board and 8 out of 9 on School Board). Has big money prevented an even broader range politicians with a very diverse range of views and priorities from being elected to office?
Below we provide a brief commentary on the motion and what makes it so significant. Further below we provide the text of Councillor Carr’s current motion, plus text of the January 2014 City Council motion on the topic. How will other members of Council act on this? Watch carefully. Will they subvert it, delay it, weaken it? Or will they support it, for immediate action? True colours will be revealed.
Part of the campaign finance reform motion is a request to allow the City to set lower spending limits than the Province, and to use a per-registered-voter system to calculate the limit for spending, rather than per capita, with the result being lowering limits.
Some people might try to say that this motion a lot like reforms that Councillor Andrea Reimer has been advocating, and which Council has adopted in the form of past motions as advice for the provincial Special Committee on Local Election Reforms. But anyone who says so is seriously incorrect. Carr’s motion is a significant improvement, and is also a response to the Special Committee’s report, making it new and timely. The Special Committee actually did adopt a couple of things that the City asked for, such as the spending limits for candidates and limits on 3rd party advertisers. But it was hardly enough. The ball is now in Vancouver City Council’s court to respond to the Province.
The Hansard record for the Bill 20 (Local Elections Campaign Financing Act) debate in May 2014 shows an amendment by NDP MLA Selina Robinson was introduced to let the City of Vancouver set some of its own rules; it was later defeated:
S. Robinson: I move:
[To amend section 137 by deleting the text shown as struck through and adding the text shown as underlined
Division (8) [Campaign Financing] of Part I as repealed
137 Sections 55-65 are repealed and the following substituted:
55 (1) Council is permitted to enact a bylaw or bylaws in order to
(a) establish limits on election expenses incurred in a campaign period by candidates or electoral organisations;
(b) establish maximum limits on campaign contributions to candidates or elector organisations;
(c) establish a limit or a ban on a contributor class; and
(d) establish fines or penalties, including disqualification, for violation of a bylaw enacted under this section.
(2) Enactments and amendments of bylaws under this section are prohibited within a campaign period.
(3) For the purpose of this section, definitions are as established in the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act.]
http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th2nd/20140501am-Hansard-v11n6.htm#3369 [for full record of debate]
http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th2nd/20140501pm-Hansard-v11n7.htm#3381 [vote: NDP, Green & Ind. support]
This amendment, had it passed, would have been an improvement over the current campaign finance rules. Some of the power to set campaign finance rules would have been delegated to the City. However, it might have not been enough, as it would have been up to the City to actually enact the bylaws.
This proposed NDP amendment does not enshrine a ban on corporate and union donations in the Vancouver Charter, nor does it limit donors to BC residents, require annual reporting for elector organization, or set combined total limits per donor. Rather, the NDP amendment would have let the City make bylaws to further regulate parts of campaign finance. It would take more time to implement, as Council would have to also pass new bylaws. Even if City Council were to pass new bylaws (such as a ban on corporate or union donations), a future council could modify or repeal the bylaws. Carr’s motion, on the other hand, would have these changes take effect as soon as the Province got around to amending the Charter. The sooner changes are made, the better, as by-elections can theoretically happen well before 2018. As well, the changes would get big money out of civic politics in the years between elections; the current civic political party apparatus is still mostly fueled by large donations. There’s no transparency now on who is funding elector organizations in 2015.
If the final spending limits determined by the Province are too high, City Council would have a mechanism to set lower spending limits at a later date. That is part of the motion. For a “realistic” spending limit, perhaps a range of $100,000 to $200,000 total per electoral organization (all candidates & party combined) is a good number. That has been suggested to the Special Committee during the Public Hearing phase by several witnesses.
It would be hard for a civic party to argue that it can’t run a campaign on less than $200,000. Other parties (apart from Vision Vancouver and the NPA) can do it. This would mean a setting spending limit of between 25 cents and 50 cents per donor (as a maximum per party & candidates combined).
An amendment for a corporate and union donation ban was also introduced during the debate on Bill 20 by Independent MLA Vicki Huntington last year. The amendment would have removed the ability of organizations to contribute to campaigns, and limit contributions to individuals only. This proposed change was also later defeated (partial excerpt below):
V. Huntington: I am rising to propose an amendment to section 26 of the bill.
[To amend as follows:
By deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
Section 26 (1) An individual
or organization must not do any of the following:
(f) make a campaign contribution with money, non-monetary property or services of another individual
(g) make a campaign contribution indirectly by giving money, non-monetary property or services to an individual
or organization(i) for the individual
or organization to make as a campaign contribution, or
(ii) as consideration for that individual
or organization making a campaign contribution.
(3) Only individuals may make campaign contributions.
(4) For greater certainty, contributor classes (b) to (g) are prohibited from making campaign contributions.
http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th2nd/20140430pm-Hansard-v11n5.htm#3324 [full debate and vote]
The recommendations for third parties spending in the Special Committee Report are probably in line with the City’s size. In Vancouver, this would work out to a limit of 5% of the spending limit for the mayoral candidate (approximately $10,100).
The Committee recommends to the Legislative Assembly that third party advertisers have an expense limit of 5 percent of the expense limit of a mayoral candidate in municipal elections or 5 percent of the expense limit of a candidate in those races where there is no mayoral candidate (e.g., for school trustee or regional electoral area director) and that $150,000 be an overarching, cumulative limit. (page 32)
One innovation in Adriane Carr’s motion is the idea to cap donations from a single donor at $5,000 per year to all candidates & parties combined. This is really critical. In past elections, the NPA and Vision Vancouver benefit greatly from “big money” donations. For example, Vision received a single $100,000 donation from one individual. Capping donations could really start to help level the playing field. For comparison, the main list of Class 1 (individual) Vision donors for 2014 shows just how much of the donations are above $5000. Limiting individuals to how much total they can donate would be a big step forward.
Something like this is done in Toronto where no one can donate more than $5000 total to City Council candidates. Hence, in Toronto no one can give a maximum donation to each of the main Mayoral candidates ($2500 each) and to the key Council candidates in all of the Wards ($750 each):
This link goes to the agenda for the meeting, plus instructions on how to write or speak to Council: http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20150721/regu20150721ag.htm
There are still other issues with the general election rules, the form of representation (at large / wards / proportional representation), and with the new four-year term (Vancouver residents were never consulted, yet Mayor Robertson took the liberty to tell the Minister that, YES, he as mayor would like to have the term shifted from three to four years.).
MOTION ON NOTICE (July 21, 2015) B.4
- Vancouver Response to Recommendations of the Special Committee on Local Election Expense Limits
MOVER: Councillor Carr
- The Final Report of British Columbia’s Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits was released on June 26, 2015, recommending per-capita-based local election expense limits that, based on the most recent census, would have allowed maximum spending of $2.9 million by an elector organization running a full slate of 27 candidates: an amount higher than the record-breaking 2011 election spending of $2.2 million by VISION Vancouver and $2.4 million by the NPA that prompted Vancouver City Council’s repeated calls for limits to election spending;
- All the other provinces in Canada referenced in the Special Committee’s report that base local election expense limits on a formula use a per elector formula;
- Using a per elector rather than per capita formula would reduce election spending by an elector organization running a full slate of candidates by close to half a million dollars;
- The reason given by the Special Committee for using a per capita formula is that “uniform, consistent, and centrally available lists of registered electors do not exist for all local governments in BC” (page 7 of the final report), yet the City of Vancouver has been choosing to use the British Columbia voters’ list for its elections;
- The mandate of the Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits failed to include critical public policy questions related to election expense limits that have been raised in motions such as the motion passed on January 22, 2014, entitled “Response to Provincial Government on Municipal Campaign Finance Reform”, [for convenience, we copy the text of that motion below] specifically: limits on individual donations, restrictions on sources of donations including a ban on corporate, union and out-of-country donations and annual reporting of revenues and expenses by elector organizations in non-election years;
- Approximately $5.6 million was spent by all elector organizations in the 2014 Vancouver civic election and donations included an individual donation of $100,000 to one campaign and donations by one corporation totalling $360,000 to another campaign;
- Unlike elector organizations in municipal elections, political parties in British Columbia are subject to annual financial report requirements;
- Other Canadian jurisdictions are permitted to have more restrictive rules for campaign finances than Provincial regulations such as the City of Toronto which limits donations by an individual to a maximum of $5,000 combined, to all candidates and which also bans corporate and union donations to City Council races by limiting donations to individuals only;
- The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia has regularly amended the Vancouver Charter, with previous amendments introduced by the 2014 Legislative Session: 2nd Session, 40th Parliament.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
- THAT the City of Vancouver verify with the Province of British Columbia that the provincial voters’ list which the City uses for its elections is “uniform, consistent, and centrally available”.
- THAT Council instruct legal staff to draft recommendations to amend the Vancouver Charter to incorporate the following points and to have the City Manager forward these recommendations to the Legislative Assembly of British on behalf of City Council with a request that the changes be made and to take effect as soon as possible:
- The following amendments are to apply to the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver School District.
- The election spending limit formula as recommended by the Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits should be per elector.
- Donations shall be banned from corporations or unions to local elections in the City of Vancouver.
- Individuals resident in the Province of British Columbia are the only class of contributor to be permitted in Vancouver local elections.
- A limit shall be placed on the total amount that can be donated by any one individual to $5,000 in total to all candidates and elector organizations combined, per year.
- Elector organizations shall publicly and annually release income and expense disclosure forms, including donors’ lists during the years between elections.
- The City of Vancouver shall be enabled to set lower spending limits than those set by the Province of British Columbia for candidates and elector organizations taking part in local elections.
* * * * *
MOTION ADOPTED BY CITY COUNCIL ON 22-JAN-2014
Response to Provincial Government on Municipal Campaign Finance Reform
- Response to Provincial Government on Municipal Campaign Finance Reform
At its meeting on Tuesday, January 21, 2014, Vancouver City Council referred the following motion to the Standing Committee on Planning, Transportation and Environment meeting on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, in order to hear from speakers.
MOVER: Councillor Reimer
SECONDER: Councillor Jang
- On December 24, 2013 members of Vancouver City Council received a request from the Provincial Government requesting feedback on campaign finance rules by January 31, 2014;
- In 2005, 2009, 2010, 2012, and in 2013 via a motion endorsed near unanimously by the UBCM, the City of Vancouver has brought forward formal requests to the Province requesting changes to the Vancouver Charter to allow Vancouver to create appropriate rules for municipal election campaign finance;
- The funds used to campaign for elected office in Vancouver have grown 175% in the eight years Vancouver has waited for Provincial action on this issue, with the unprecedented case in the 2011 Vancouver municipal election of $960,000 donated to one electoral organization from a single corporation and more than $5.2 million spent by all parties;
- City Council has previously unanimously agreed (on March 25, 2010 and again on January 31, 2012) to a set of minimum rules for campaign finance in Vancouver elections. These rules are attached as Appendix A.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Vancouver respond to the Provincial Government’s request for feedback by reiterating the request for changes to the Vancouver Charter as outlined in Appendix A and which allow for limits on campaign spending and contributions, bans on donations from corporations and unions, and provide for greater disclosure.
(APPENDIX A – from minutes of March 25, 2010 Planning and Environment Committee Meeting http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20100325/documents/penv20100325min.pdf)
- Set limits on the annual amount of contributions that can be given by an individual to an elector organization, campaign organizer, or an individual seeking elected office.
- Ban union and corporate donations.
- Limit the amount of money that may be spent annually by an elector organization, campaign organizer, or an individual seeking elected office during a general local election campaign.
- These limits on contributions and expenditures would be based upon a per-elector/capita, per-candidate formula (with individual candidate resources allowed to be pooled for use by elector organizations) and would be no higher than provincial and federal spending limits.
- Disallow contributions to an elector organization, campaign organizer, or an individual seeking elected office, from sources outside of Canada.
- Require that all donations and expenses for candidates, elected officials and elector organizations be disclosed on a continuous basis at six month intervals.
- Implement a system of tax credits for municipal donations, similar to those for provincial and federal elections.
- Change the definition of “candidate” to include anyone seeking nomination within an elector organization for candidacy to a local government office.
- Appoint the Provincial Chief Election Officer to oversee municipal elections in BC, and establish penalties and mechanisms for enforcement of offences under the amended local government elections legislation.
- Amend the definition of election offenses and related penalties to include individuals acting as an intermediary in third-party campaign contribution schemes.
NOTE: items 10 thru 12 were removed as they do not directly relate to municipal campaign finance reform and were specific to questions posed by the Local Government Elections Task Force. They are provided below for reference.
- Extend municipal terms of office to four years.
- Oppose allowing corporations the right to vote in local elections.
- Provide local governments with the authority to use any method of elections they wish to use, and repeal the requirement for Lieutenant Governor in Council approval to adopt such a change.
Media release: Carr motion calls on Province to limit Vancouver campaign donations, spending. Green Party of Vancouver 18-July-2015. http://www.vangreens.ca/carr_motion_campaign_limits
Carr notes that the Special Committee’s recommendations fail to address long-standing reforms requested by Councils, elector organizations and citizen groups for the past decade, including:
- Far from getting big money out of local politics, the Special Committee’s recommended population-based spending limits formula would continue to allow an electoral organization running a full slate of candidates in Vancouver to spend near-record levels of more than $3 million in the next election.
- The Special Committee failed to recommend spending limits or reporting requirements for elector organizations in years between elections.
- The Special Committee’s recommendations did not include any limits on the size or source of donations to candidates or elector organizations, despite unanimous resolutions of multiple Councils calling for a ban on corporate, union and out-of-province contributions.
Carr’s motion (available here and copied below) responds to the Special Committee’s recommendations by demonstrating their inadequacy in addressing the concerns that have been raised over the prevalence of big money in Vancouver politics, and their failure to incorporate any of the suggestions offered by Vancouver City Council, local elector organizations and citizens over the past several years, including during the latest round of consultations last spring.
Vancouver Council will once again debate campaign spending limits, by Renee Bernard, 20-Jul-2015. http://www.news1130.com/2015/07/20/vancouver-council-will-once-again-debate-campaign-spending-limits/
Motion to limit political campaign spending to go through Vancouver City Council
By Lauren Sundstrom, VanCityBuzz, 20-Jul-2015. http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2015/07/political-campaign-spending-limits-motion/
City of Vancouver to look at election and campaign finance reform, by Shelby Thom, CKNW. 21-Jul-2015. http://www.cknw.com/2015/07/21/84223/
Motion by Councillor Andrea Reimer, effectively burying the motion by Clr. Adriane Carr.
Here is our query sent immediately afterward to the City Clerk.
Dear Clerk’s Office,