Motion to ban corporate and union donations in civic elections stumbles

BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver speaks in support of a civic corporate and union donation ban at the Union of BC Municipalities convention.
BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver speaks in support of a civic corporate and union donation ban at the Union of BC Municipalities convention. Global News

It appears many municipalities aren’t ready to move quite as quickly as the province when it comes to campaign finance reform.

A motion proposed at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference on Wednesday failed to get enough votes to pass, and was instead referred back to the organization’s executive for further study.

Under the UBCM proposal, delegates would have asked for any changes made to provincial political donation laws to be extended to B.C.’s cities.

READ MORE: Pressure builds for ‘big money’ ban in B.C. civic elections

The governing BC NDP has proposed provincial legislation that would ban corporate and union donations, cap individual donations at $1,200 and offer five years of taxpayer funding for parties while the new rules are phased in.

Story continues below advertisement

Coquitlam Councillor Dennis Marsden was among delegates who said he agreed with the spirit of the motion but couldn’t get behind applying all of the province’s changes.

“That would imply then that incumbents would be receiving some sort of funding in support of their election efforts moving forward, which would give a further advantage to incumbents that people seeking a seat on council simply don’t enjoy.”

READ MORE: B.C. NDP introduce legislation to ban big money in politics, includes corporate and union donation ban

Terry O’Neil, another Coquitlam city councillor, also voted ‘no’ over concerns the ban could discourage people from running for municipal politics.

“I fear removing this mechanism of support, which is the current donations, could lead to a dearth of candidates seeking elected local office, increasing the power of incumbency and limiting voices from across the political spectrum,” he said.

Wednesday’s motion was proposed by Oak Bay councillor Kevin Murdoch, and earned the backing of provincial Green Party leader Andrew Weaver who spoke in support.

READ MORE: B.C. political parties to get taxpayer funding under NDP donation ban

The City of Vancouver has also been an active proponent of tightening municipal donation rules.

Story continues below advertisement

The UBCM passed a motion back in 2015 asking for the province to ban corporate and union donations and tighten rules, but was rebuffed by the BC Liberal government of the day.

However, that same year the province did amend civic election rules to set a cap on what candidates for mayor and council can spend.

-With files from Haider Nayani