IntegrityBC issues the Vancouver campaign finance challenge

(Victoria, 19 March 2014) – If the B.C. government won’t do it in time for November’s local election, IntegrityBC is calling on Vancouver’s municipal parties to do it themselves and agree to put an end to the obscene spending and corporate largesse that voters witnessed during the 2011 campaign.

The organization made its call following news that Vancouver condo developer Bob Rennie hosted a $25,000 a plate luncheon for Vision Vancouver, which included a private “roundtable” discussion with Mayor Gregor Robertson. Rennie claimed that fewer than 50 people were invited, “so you can get a chance to talk.”

“It’s a pretty safe bet that they weren’t discussing the Vancouver Canucks for two hours over canapés,” said IntegrityBC executive director Dermod Travis.

Last time out, campaign spending in Vancouver hit $5.3 million, in a city with 419,000 eligible voters. In 2008, it was $4.5 million.

This month, candidates in Calgary’s 2013 election filed their campaign disclosure reports. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi – who ran his campaign on a self-imposed limit of 65 cents per eligible voter – spent $391,124.

With 668,000 eligible voters, Nenshi underspent his own cap by six cents per voter and ended the campaign with a surplus of $120,000, most of which he intends to donate to local charities. Under Alberta’s Local Authorities Election Act, he could keep the funds for his next municipal campaign.

In Mississauga, Ontario – which is 1,000 eligible voters shy of Vancouver – the 2010 spending limit for the post of mayor was $319,664.

According to IntegrityBC, the flip side of obscene election spending is equally obscene campaign donations, as shown by Rennie’s $25,000 a plate luncheon and Vancouver land developer Rob Macdonald’s $960,000 gift to the NPA in 2011, an amount that may very well have set a record for a Canadian municipal election.

In Alberta, a donor can give no more than $5,000 to a candidate annually and must reside in Alberta – unlike the rules in B.C. that allow citizens of other provinces and countries to donate to a local campaign. In Mississauga, there is a cap of $750 on a donation to any one candidate and the donor must reside in Ontario.

Three provinces have existing campaign finance rules for local elections that could easily be adopted in Vancouver. They are Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba. Since Vancouver is the only major Canadian city that doesn’t have wards – IntegrityBC would recommend the Ontario rules as a basis for discussion among the parties and candidates.

Ontario caps campaign spending for mayor, council or school board trustee candidates at 85 cents per elector.

“This isn’t a big leap for Vancouver’s municipal parties,” said Travis. “The four parties that have sat on council in the past eight years have all supported motions calling for electoral finance reform. This is a chance to show some leadership and put into practice what they’ve already agreed to. The will is there and there’s sufficient time before this fall’s elections to find the way.”

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For more information:

Dermod Travis, Executive Director