Pressure builds for ‘big money’ ban in B.C. civic elections
As B.C.’s NDP government prepares to roll out a ban on corporate and union donations, it is facing renewed calls for those rules to be extended to civic elections.
Delegates to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) Convention will vote this Wednesday on a resolution from an Oak Bay city councillor calling for the province’s ban to be extended to cities.
LISTEN: Vancouver city councillor calls for “big money” donation ban to be extended to cities
It’s a call being echoed by Vancouver City Coun. Andrea Reimer who has been pushing for the reform for several years.
Speaking on CKNW’s The Jill Bennett Show, Reimer said she’s now written a formal request to Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson.
“The current government, when in opposition, did introduce legislation specifically related to Vancouver. Unfortunately, it failed. But we’re hoping that now that they are in government they’re able to move it forward and, I think, really importantly, on a timeline that will make it matter for the next civic election in 2018.”
In order for the rules to be in place for that election, the province would need to act by the end of October, Reimer said.
Municipalities in B.C. do not have the power to write their own donation laws. That power lies with the province through the Vancouver Charter and a law covering other cities called the Local Government Act.
WATCH: BC NDP and Greens defend taxpayer ‘allowance’ to ban big money
Reimer said she doesn’t care whether the changes are geared directly at Vancouver or are extended province wide, so long as they cover four key areas.
“A ban on union (and) on corporate as the most important, a cap on individual donations, a cap on spending, and much greater ability to enforce rules.”
Not everyone in municipal politics is united on the changes.
Last week, North Vancouver city council voted down a motion from Coun. Don Bell to extend the NDP’s new campaign finance rules to cities.
“There were concerns that there weren’t limits on [individual] donations. And of course the motion that’s going to be considered at the UBCM is one that’s calling on the provincial government to bring in restrictions more or less both including corporate and union donations but others as well,” Bell said.
“If they bring in restrictions on donations as well that covers the question of one of the loopholes that was seen.”
During the North Vancouver debate, BC NDP President and North Vancouver Coun. Craig Keating who voted “no” pointed to a single individual donation in the ballpark of $80,000, while also raising concerns that candidates have enough money to effectively represent themselves to the public.
In the 2014 vote, Reimer’s Vision Vancouver raked in $3.4 million in donations, $2.2 of it from corporations and $385,000 from unions, while the NPA brought in $2.4 million, $1.7 million of it from corporations.
Last year, an independent report commissioned by the City of Vancouver recommended that B.C. municipalities hold a referendum during the 2018 vote on giving cities the power to tighten political donation rules.
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The UBCM has previously passed a resolution calling for the ban, and the City of Vancouver has made the request several times to the province — both unsuccessfully.
In 2015, the province did amend the rules for local elections to put a cap on expenses.
In cities with a population under 10,000 those rules cap expenditures for mayoral candidates at $10,000 and council candidates at $5,000.
In cities with more than 10,000 residents, it applies a per capita formula; for Vancouver, that formula would limit mayoral candidates to about $209,000 and candidates for council to about $107,000. A party running a full slate including mayor would hit a cap of about $1.17 million.
In 2014, Vision Vancouver spent about $3.4 million, while the NPA spent just over $2 million.
Earlier this month, the BC NDP revealed the details of its proposed campaign finance reform.
That initiative would ban corporate and union donations, limit individual donations to $1,200, and see political parties receive per-vote taxpayer subsidies over the next five years during a transition to the new rules.
-With files from Kyle Benning
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