Next month could mark a significant beginning on getting the big money out of Vancouver’s civic elections.
That’s if you believe the provincial government.
In November, the government begins a “stakeholder outreach process” on expense limits “to inform the development of further legislative changes” for the 2017 civic elections.
Yes, that bureaucratic language makes my head hurt, too.
So let me translate…
The government is going to spend more time reviewing whether it wants to create a law that puts a plug in the pipeline of big money that currently spills millions of dollars into the campaigns of Vancouver civic candidates.
OK, that’s not totally accurate, since the government wants that law to apply to all B.C. municipalities, not just Vancouver.
But, as city hall watchers know, Vancouver is the only city in B.C. that sees two of its three mainstream parties easily spend $1 million-plus every election campaign.
That will continue for the 2014 campaign because the government is in no hurry to implement spending limits. Over the years, I’ve spoken to at least three provincial ministers responsible for electoral reform and they all promised changes.
So what’s the new minister saying?
Her name is Coralee Oakes, and I happened to get a few minutes with her last month at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting downtown.
“We are absolutely committed to making sure expense finance reform happens for campaign elections,” said Oakes, a former Quesnel city councillor. “It’s something that is significantly important to me. I understand from a local government perspective what this really means to create a level playing field for everyone that wants to get involved.”
The level playing field she is referring to is one where independent candidates don’t have to drain their bank accounts to run and, most likely, lose to a well-funded candidate from Vision Vancouver, the NPA or COPE.
What’s interesting about this whole topic is that it’s not new and the government has known about Vancouver’s concerns for several years.
So too, apparently, have other municipal politicians in B.C., who agreed at the UBCM to support Vancouver’s resolution to have the provincial government amend the Vancouver Charter to implement restrictions on campaign spending.
I spoke to Oakes before this happened, so I’m not sure how this support translates to implementing spending limits for Vancouver and the rest of the province.
But what Oakes did make clear was this: “We’ve made it very clear that we want legislation that’s going to be applied across the province of British Columbia.”
So the reason there won’t be spending limits in the 2014 race is?
“We’re just taking a little bit more time on this particular piece…we want to make sure we get it right.”
I called Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer about this, since she was the last local politician to successfully move a motion at council to bring in spending limits.
I hadn’t heard back from her before deadline. If I do hear from Reimer, I’ll let you know what she said.
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