The February 4, 2014 edition of the Times-Colonist carried another article about the need for municipal election reform, titled “Local Election Reform Can’t Come Soon Enough.” Nearly two years ago, I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Oak Bay News about similar issues, expressing my concerns about a troubling pattern of campaign over-spending in municipal elections. Below is my letter re-posted for your information and interest:
Municipal Election Campaigns Need Spending Cap
Times Colonist coverage this week on municipal campaign expenses echoes my ongoing concerns about such troubling trends and underscores the need for greater public scrutiny over campaign spending and financing.
Unfortunately, a Provincial Government Task Force created to examine municipal election campaign processes, including campaign financing, failed to implement its findings and recommendations, made by elected officials and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), who called for greater transparency and public accountability, as well as campaign spending limits.
In some cases, 2011 campaign spending appears to be precedent-setting in the Region, making escalating costs a potential barrier to running for public office. But campaign spending should not be our only concern.
Campaign funding sources also raise important questions about a candidate’s impartiality and independence. Candidates should disclose all campaign conributions regardless of source, type or amount, a requirement that should also apply to elector organizations.
I suggest a cap on election campaign spending and financing based on a percentage of the stipend for each elected position. For example, take an annual stipend of $20,000 and then set a candidate’s campaign spending limit at 10% or 20% of that amount.
We need to ensure that municipal elections provide greater transparency, public accountability and access for all citizens who choose to run for public office at the local level. Money should not become the major qualifier.