What did people say about local election finance reform? Draft recommendations fall short. Nov 27 deadline for comments

Municipal Campaign Finance Reform PetitionDo the proposed changes to B.C.’s municipal election finance rules go far enough? (We say “No.”)

The deadline for feedback from the public on the election expense limits draft legislation is Friday, November 27, 2015. Comments can be submitted via email ( localgovelectionreform@gov.bc.ca ).

We received a number of insightful comments from people who signed the Get Big Money out of Civic Politics petition.* A number of these comments are reproduced further below. Only 1 of the 5 points in the petition is  acknowledged (and even then, only partially) in the draft legislation (spending limits), and for Vancouver, the recommended spending limits are much too high. Local political parties (elector organizations) will still be able to spend $2.5 to $3 million in 2018 in Vancouver if the legislation is adopted (further details here and here; high spending limits affect other B.C. cities such as Surrey & Burnaby).

The proposed rules would have no bans on corporate or union donations, no caps on the amount that can be donated, no limits on the source of the money (any numbered company, anywhere in the world), and no requirements for continuous reporting in off-election years for local political parties.

In short, the legislation if adopted as drafted would perpetuate the status quo. The province already changed the civic election cycle to four years (from three) in 2014 — without adequate public consultation, extending politicians’ terms by 33%. In Vancouver, the ruling party on City Council employed trickery and refused to support Adriane Carr’s motion that would have reformed campaign finances. It will now be up to the province to make the next move in bringing Vancouver election spending under control.

Victoria City HallWhat are people saying about finance reform? We’ve included a number of comments below from people who have signed the Get Big Money out of Civic Politics petition:

“We are losing our right to a fair democratic process when corporations make donation to mayors and councillors.”

“We need this reform to achieve election fairness and address voter cynicism that big donations from developers apparently count more than citizens’ voices on development decisions.”

“We need a level playing field!”

“Our present majority on council is bought and paid for by the unions and big business”

“Totally in agreement with this.”

“the City (Vision) has shown time and time again that they are on the side of the developer. PROFIT OVER PEOPLE”

“Municipal politicians that solicit or accept political donations from developers and real estate speculators (10 of 11 on Vancouver’s City Council), yet maintain that this has no bearing on their decisions, are misleading the public and/or deluding themselves. The development industry would not be stuffing millions into their coffers each election cycle if it didn’t bring the results they are seeking‚ excessive profitability. Because of this conflict of interest, developer-beholden officials are not pursuing policies that would truly optimize protection and provision of housing that is affordable to residents at or below the median income (about $50,000), while high quality urban design and meaningful community involvement in planning are falling by the wayside. These long-overdue reforms are crucial for countering systemic corruption and restoring transparency, accountability and integrity to City Hall.”

“In my municipality, the election of some council members are being financed by property developers who then receive favourable treatment for their proposed developments.”

“As we watch Developers and Unions fund Municipal Councillors in all areas of Metro Vancouver. It brings to mind the Inquiries being held in Montreal and Laval Quebec. Stop allowing the funding of Corporate, Developer and Unions in our Municipal Elections for the good of all Municipal regions in B.C. This is the 21st Century and no longer are we as Taxpayers, the ignorant or blind.”

“about time”

“Potential conflict of interest must be acknowledged and prevented for the protection of civil servants. I support the goal of this petition.”

“Municipal politicians need to listen to wishes of residential owners; basic services are being reduced but taxes increased, an outside independent body is needed as watch dog. “

“I gave testimony at the Ridge Theatre Development public meeting. While I was there, I heard that the developer had begun advertising to sell condo units even though the permit process wasn’t completed. They obviously knew that current City Hall administrators and council was not going to block their project. I heard also that Andrea Reimer and another councillor ensured that anyone who did not agree with developers plans as given was fired from the permit board. Vision for Vancouver, right!”

“Until this change is made developers’ money will continue to drive civic politics in BC with the politicians continuing to ignore residents opinions in favour of unsustainable massive overdevelopment. and the resultant decline in the urban quality of life. “

“I would love to see big money taken out of all levels of politics.”

“Let the people speak.”

“Get big money AND parties out of municipal politics, and restore the ward system!”

“This is long overdue in our province. Please make these changes so we have government that truly represents the voters and not the paymasters”

“I want my politicians to serve citizens, not the corporations or money men that fund them.”

“I am weary of money and greed stealing our elections. Changes to our current unregulated donation system are keeping the democratic process in the hands of corporate interests and out of those of individual citizens.”

“It is a corrupt process with ever lasting effects and those who participate in it should be ashamed of themselves. Nothing more than common thieves in the eyes of their city’s citizens‚… what are you thinking? “

“I support all efforts to rid the political system of contributions to any political party by BIG OIL, BIG PHARMA or BIG any other corporate body that has an interest in influencing the governing party for their own gain – in spite of any harm or disadvantage that may affect the health of the general population or the environment.”

“Municipal campaign reform is well overdue in BC and in Vancouver in particular. It is an insult to the democratic process and to electors not to address the 5 points made in the petition. Foreign donors, developers and unions, all expect a quid pro quo many times what they give. Although information is available many months after an election, the manner in which this is made public is extremely complicated and only dedicated forensic diggers can get at some semblance of the real facts – and that only through a veil. BC can do better than this! Reform campaign finance rules before a new electoral cycle begins!”

“Hope reform will be in place before the next election”

“A great way to stop insider/outsider control.”

“Lets keep a tight grip and a sharp eye on whats in the best interest of the people,NOT the Politicians and developers”

“I see spending limits as unnecessary if donation limits are imposed. However, in the absence of donation limits, as proposed by the government, spending limits are perhaps a necessary evil.”

“1.) tighten rules for elected officials where there is perception of conflict of interest with donors. 2.) get rid of third party financing, corporate and union donations. 3.) I agree with all petition requests”

“Put a stop to the “fire sale” of our politicians”

“I completely support the petition. It is time for some changes in our civic politics!!!”

“I agree with all the items listed in the petition. It is high time we returned to real democracy so that the electorate feels there is some point in voting.”

“America has the best government money can buy. Let’s hope that does not come to Canada.”

“Four years is too long to be stuck with a bad council. Is it possible to stagger the terms with elections every second year for half the council or eliminate political parties at the municipal level.”

“This is the least we can do to restore some semblance of accountability to municipal governments. “

“We need a truly democratic government that isn’t beholden to special interests, but listens to ordinary citizens instead.”

“We must put an end to large donations from corporations and unions. It opens the door to corruption as these donations are almost always given with the expectation of currying favour with those in power. It undermines democracy. We need municipal and federal rules at least as strong as those implemented at the federal level.”

  • Note: the petition was launched in 2013, and endorsed by the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), the Green Party of Vancouver, and Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV).The five points of the petition are reproduced below:

1. prohibit donations to municipal political parties or candidates from corporations and unions;
2. permit only Canadian citizens or permanent residents to contribute;
3. place appropriate limits on personal donations and require continuous and transparent disclosure of donations above a modest threshold;
4. place appropriate limits on campaign spending; and
5. establish clear and enforceable regulations to prevent funneling of donations through third parties or other circumventions of these reforms.


References

Local Government Elections Reform: Expense Limits: http://www.cscd.gov.bc.ca/LocalGovtElectionReform/
Feedback: http://www.cscd.gov.bc.ca/LocalGovtElectionReform/feedback.htm

$3 MILLION per municipal party election spending ‘limit’ recommendation going to BC legislature. Huge gaps. Public comments until Nov 27 (Fri) (October 22, 2015, CityHallWatch)

Report recommendations on B.C. municipal campaign spending reforms disappoint: High expense limits, no donor caps, no bans on corporate or union donations (June 10, 2015, CityHallWatch)

Council Motion July 21 (could have transformed) Vancouver politics: Ban corporate/union donations, limit dollar amounts, require continuous reporting. Buried by Clr. Andrea Reimer. (July 17, 2015, CityHallWatch)

Big Money out Petition Victoria

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