This is what Vancouver needs. Below are six items that could transform Vancouver politics forever and turn us into a world class city for transparency and accountability of our local government. This list was first posted by CityHallWatchonline in May 2012, when we called on all civic parties to adopt these resolutions and actions. We hope that well-intentioned members of each civic party will raise these resolutions from the floor. Though difficult to quantify, anyone can be quite confident that our city would be a very different place today had these measures been in place. Many of these reforms would simply help Vancouver catch up with the checks and balances already in place in some other municipalities in Canada. It’s not rocket science. Inertia is due to incumbents benefiting from the current system. Change will probably come from outside pressure.
The six items are:
- Enhance financial disclosure and auditing of election campaigns, political donations
- Move civic elections governance to independent external elections office
- Seek a review of Vancouver by the Auditor General for Local Government
- Create a municipal lobbyist registry
- Restore excellence in freedom of information practices
- Boost accountability of gifts to elected official and public servants
TEXT OF ELECTOR ORGANIZATION MEMBERS’ MOTION FOR ANNUAL GENERAL MEETINGS
WHEREAS transparency and accountability are pillars of our democracy, we hereby pledge as an elector organization in the City of Vancouver to take the following actions.
1. ENHANCE FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE AND AUDITING OF ELECTION CAMPAIGNS, POLITICAL DONATIONS
RECOGNIZING THAT civic election campaign finance disclosure is currently based on self-disclosure, with no auditing function, no checks and balances, and reporting only during the election period,
WE THEREFORE pledge to lead by example, and voluntarily adopt a policy of continuous reporting at regular intervals (such as quarterly or twice annually) of political contributions to our candidates, elected officials, and elector organization, pledge to provide greater transparency of in-kind donations, and pledge to investigate best practices in other provinces, cities, or jurisdictions, and apply them to our elector organization, while challenging other elector organizations to do the same.
2. MOVE CIVIC ELECTIONS GOVERNANCE TO INDEPENDENT EXTERNAL ELECTIONS OFFICE
RECOGNIZING THAT under the Vancouver Charter and related regulations, the governance of elections is controlled within Vancouver City Hall, with the Chief Election Office being an employee of the City and the Vancouver Police Department responsible for regulatory enforcement, and the Mayor of Vancouver the Chair of the Vancouver Police Board, and
RECOGNIZING THAT the current governance of elections could be improved by having a truly independent elections office,
WE THEREFORE pledge to call upon City Council to engage in discussions with the provincial government to move toward establishing an independent and external elections agency for Vancouver civic elections, in the style of Elections BC, or Elections BC itself.
3. SEEK A REVIEW OF VANCOUVER BY AUDITOR GENERAL FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT
RECOGNIZING THAT the provincial government the new Auditor General for Local Government has been created and will soon start its work, with the function of conducting value-for-money audits to help British Columbians see how their tax dollars are being spent, and recognizing that the new post has been praised as a way to increase openness, transparency and accountability for taxpayers.
WE THEREFORE pledge to call upon City Council to request that the Municipal Auditor General conduct an independent review of Vancouver civic finances as soon as possible.
4. CREATE A MUNICIPAL LOBBYIST REGISTRY
RECOGNIZING THAT elected officials at every level of government must serve the public interest as their first duty but also must balance many different interests, and that they may be approached by special interests seeking to influence decisions, and that federal and provincial levels have lobbyist registries, and that some municipal governments (e.g., Toronto) have a municipal lobbyist registry,
WE THEREFORE pledge to call upon City Council to work toward the introduction of a municipal lobbyist registry in the City of Vancouver as soon as possible, with reference to best practices in other municipalities.
5. RESTORE EXCELLENCE IN FREEDOM OF INFORMATION PRACTICES
RECOGNIZING THAT Vancouver once had highly-praised policies and practices relating to civic information disclosure, but the Corporate Information and Privacy Office has come under more stringent control of the City Manager and influence of the communications department, and reporters report that information delays are long, and redactions are severe, and outright denials of information are frequent,
WE THEREFORE pledge to call upon City Council to submit to an audit by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of B.C. so as to reform and improve the once-leading freedom of information office.
6. BOOST ACCOUNTABILITY OF GIFTS TO ELECTED OFFICIALS AND PUBLIC SERVANTS
RECOGNIZING THAT current gift disclosure regulations are based on self-reporting, and media coverage has suggested that Vancouver’s current regulations results in inadequate reporting of gifts given to elected officials,
WE THEREFORE pledge to investigate best practices in other jurisdictions, and bring new recommendations to City Council to make the reporting of such gifts more stringent, including auditing functions.