New rules coming for local election spending

Minister Coralee Oakes says donation and spending limits will be in place for the 2018 municipal elections

Community

VICTORIA – Municipal election campaigns are like mushrooms that pop up every few years, with voters still in the dark about who’s fertilizing them with how much money.

That’s why the B.C. government waited until the first elections for four-year municipal terms were held to examine how campaign spending should be regulated, says Coralee Oakes, B.C.’s minister for community, sport and cultural development.

Oakes promised there will be new rules on spending and donations from property developers, unions and other donors to municipal council and school board candidates by the next province-wide municipal vote in 2018. A legislature committee started working on it in October, with recommendations due by Nov. 27.

“What we found is that for a lot of the organizations, if you’re not in election mode, they are not formed,” Oakes said. “So we knew that if we were to do stakeholder engagement, we need to do it when the elections were happening.”

Some urban municipalities see substantial campaign donations from special interests, with only the requirement of disclosure long after votes are counted. In Vancouver, where developers and civic worker unions spend heavily, Mayor Gregor Robinson’s Vision Vancouver party and challenger Kirk Lapointe’s Non-Partisan Association were pushed to voluntarily disclose their major donors before Saturday’s vote.

Imposing campaign reform on local governments is an awkward task for the ruling B.C. Liberals, who have refused to give up their multi-million-dollar advantage in corporate donations over the NDP and other challengers.

NDP leader John Horgan said Monday the opposition will soon table its annual private member’s bill calling for the elimination of corporate and union donations from provincial campaigns, as has been done in other provinces and at the federal level.