B.C. municipal candidates call for action on ‘developer money in local elections’

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B.C. municipal election: Metro Vancouver candidates question developer money
A group of like-minded candidates for municipal office across Metro Vancouver are questioning the role money donated by developers plays in local decision-making. Emad Agahi reports – Sep 26, 2022

A group of candidates from municipalities across the province met on Sunday to review the potential impact of developers on municipal elections and how to remedy influence tied to donations.

They are part of a “loose coalition” dubbed Candidates Against Developer Donations (CADD).

“The largest, wealthiest, most powerful sector of the economy in British Columbia is the real estate sector,” Hunter Madsen, council candidate for Port Moody told Global News Monday.

“This is a sector that’s been very very active in trying to fund, to provide donations, for a list of candidates in cities across the region. No coincidence, cities where they want projects to move through quickly on city councils.”

Madsen said in 2017, the B.C. government moved to ban all corporate and union donations to municipal candidates. That did not work as the government did not “close all the loopholes,” he added.

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He explained that while corporations could not donate money, individuals within those corporations still can.

Madsen said this has corrupted the municipal election scene across British Columbia.

The coalition discussed topics including:

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  • Raising voter awareness: raising awareness about developer donations in relation to land-use decisions, encouraging voters to ask candidates if they are accepting developer donations
  • Candidate commitments: inviting fellow candidates to take a pledge in this election to not accept developer-linked individual donations
  • Improved transparency measures: strengthening council policies to ensure disclosure of donor ties prior to related council decisions
  • Municipal lobbyist-contact registries
  • Tighten donation rules for those linked to development industry: narrow the range and amounts of permitted campaign contributions to candidates in municipalities outside the developer’s voting district
  • Lessen candidate dependence on industry money
  • Explore options to extend public financing of municipal campaigns

Madsen said they want voters to pay attention to councillors and mayoral candidates and look at their voting records if they are incumbents.

George Affleck, former Vancouver city councillor and political analyst, told Global News he thought the changes made by the B.C. government did not go far enough when they were changed a few years ago.

He said the issue was that the changes just pushed the money further underground, he suggested, with people connected to development companies asking their friends or family members to donate.

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“There’s a movement that’s protesting anti-development money but it’s really going to be hard for them to identify that that money is coming from developers,” Affleck said. “There are individual developers themselves who are donating money and there are perhaps family members of those developers donating money and perhaps friends of those developers donating money but that’s completely above board.”

Individual contributions are capped at $1,250.

“I think it’s interesting that there’s this movement to protest developer money when officially, there isn’t developer money officially in the election,” Affleck added.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Hunter Madsen was a mayoral candidate, when he is a council candidate. In addition, Global News incorrectly stated the name of the coalition. Global News regrets the errors.

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