A proposed overhaul of campaign finance rules for civic elections won’t take the big money out of Vancouver politics, critics say.
Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes issued a press release Aug. 21 announcing a “modernization” of campaign finance rules for civic elections. The government plans to pursue changes that would ban anonymous campaign contributions, require registration for third party advertisers, and move up the filing period for financial disclosure by 30 days. The updated legislation will be introduced in the spring and is aimed at improving accountability ahead of province-wide municipal elections in November 2014.
Limiting how much candidates and parties can spend on campaigns, though, will have to wait.
The Local Government Elections Task Force, struck in 2009 by then-premier Gordon Campbell to investigate the role of money in civic elections, recommended expense limits as a way of leveling the playing field in Vancouver politics. The government’s plan is based on many of the task force’s recommendations — which were boiled down from more than 10,000 public submissions. But it will hold off on capping campaign spending until at least after the 2014 elections.
Expense limits will require more consultation, the ministry said.
Dermod Travis, executive director of the watchdog group Integrity B.C., said it’s another case of moving the goal posts on real reform.
“[The government] indicated that spending limits would be in place by the 2014 municipal elections, and [before that] the 2011 elections,” he said. “There may be a desire to see one more round of civic elections in the Lower Mainland that are a free for all.”
Now, he said, there’s no guarantee that campaign spending will be reigned in for elections in 2017.
Civic elections in B.C. are some of the least regulated in Canada. Unlike provincial and federal elections, there are no limits on how much candidates and parties can spend. In 2011, Vision Vancouver raised $2.2 million, while the Non-Partisan Association netted around $2.5 million. For comparison: the B.C. New Democrats raised $9.7 million during last May’s election to campaign across the entire province.
The ministry could not be reached for comment by the Courier’s press time.
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