In case you missed it, a Provincial all-party Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits released its long-awaited report on December 15, 2014.
As stated in the press release, “the report contains results of the Committee’s public consultation on principles to guide the relationship between elector organizations and their endorsed candidates related to expense limits, and principles for establishing expense limits for third party advertisers. Over 900 submissions were received.”
While this report represents significant work and will help to inform development of future legislation on local election expense limits, this is only the first shoe to drop. The Committee will begin phase 2 of its deliberations in 2015 related to expense limit amounts for local elections, a long-standing concern of mine. As we know, campaign expenses have continued to escalate. I ran my first campaign in a bid for a municipal Councillor position in 2002, in a community with a population of about 11,000. I spent approximately $2,600 at that time and over the past 12 years and 5 campaigns later, my own campaign expenses have climbed every election, to a peak of over $10,000 in 2014 to fund a Mayor’s campaign in a community with a population of about 18,000.
My concerns about local election campaign funding and spending focus on the reality that money becomes a real barrier to ordinary citizens who want to run for local office. The playing field is not level unless reasonable spending limits are placed across the board on election campaign expenses. One’s ability to raise funds should not be the determining factor to one’s ability to participate as a candidate in a local election. Campaign funding and spending raise important questions for all communities about equity, equality and public access to running for public office, as well as related questions about a candidate’s impartiality and independence once he or she is elected.
As I did in previous years, I was asked to participate in the public consultation process for this current report and some of my comments appear on page 9. In my full submission, I went on to suggest a funding formula to guide campaign spending and funding, based on a percentage of the salary or stipend amount for each elected position. For example, if the annual salary or stipend for a Councillor position is $14,000, then candidates who are running for this particular office can spend no more on their election campaign than a percentage of $14,000. What that percentage is would be determined by the Province and integrated with legislation that governs the role of Elections BC.
I commend the Provincial Government for taking on this issue and I look forward to the results of their ongoing deliberations and work in 2015.
To read the current report in its entirety, please visit the following link: http://www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/leel/