Halifax getting the go-ahead for election finance rules

Mike Savage waves to supporters on Oct. 20, 2012, after winning his bid for mayor. As he prepares to run for a second term Savage says his campaign fundraising rules will be stricter this time around. Global News

The province is moving ahead with legislation that will enable councillors in Halifax to draft rules around campaign financing and donations.

Bill 154 amends the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter to allow council to come up with its own rules covering areas such as campaign fundraising limits, limits on who can donate, and what individual donation limits should be.

The new legislation follows a request from council to give it the power to enact a bylaw that would set more stringent rules about campaign financing. Currently Nova Scotia’s municipal election rules set few limits for campaign finance, but do require campaign disclosures to be made within 60 days of the election.

READ MORE: Province will amend Halifax’s charter to allow for election finance rules

Mayor Mike Savage was on hand at Province House for the announcement by Municipal Affairs Minister Zack Churchill. He says it’s unlikely that any new campaign finance rules would be in place before the municipal election in October, because there’s a lot of work still to be done before bylaws could be enacted.

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“There’s a number of councillors that want to move on this quickly, and my hope is that somebody will bring this to council in the next couple of meetings to at least decide what the next steps are,” Savage said.

The legislation also doesn’t force the municipality to create rules, it only gives it the ability to do so.

Not all councillors on the current council are in agreement on the need for stricter finance rules so it’s not a guarantee that new finance rules will go ahead or what areas it will cover. For example, there’s debate around whether there should just be limits on how much can be raised or if who can donate should also be limited.

“There’s varying degrees of points of view on council as to what regulations need to be in place,” Savage said. “And some have felt very strongly that we don’t need this.”

During the 2012 municipal election, some candidates imposed rules on themselves.

Counc. Jennifer Watts limited contributions to $500 per person and says she didn’t accept donations from organizations such as unions or corporations to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

Counc. Steve Craig imposed a $1,000 limit but didn’t limit who could donate.

Savage had a $5,000 donation limit, and raised more than $342,000, including in-kind donations.

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Savage said he will have a lower individual donation limit than he did in the last election, but hasn’t decided yet what that will be.

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