Home > British Columbia Politics, Local Government > BC Local Government Elections Task Force A Step Forward, But Still Disappointing

BC Local Government Elections Task Force A Step Forward, But Still Disappointing

June 1, 2010

Last Friday, the Local Government Elections Task Force, a body designed to examine local elections in BC, released its report. For the most part, I think this report, if implemented would be a step forward in improving the state of local democracy in BC, but I think there were a few things that needed to be addressed in the report that the authors decided not to.

The Good

Campaign Spending Limits: This was probably the most needed reform to local elections in BC. Currently, there are no limits to local campaigns, which has resulted in campaign spending spiraling out of control in some places and therefore making running for office something that only well-to-do people could really do. Hopefully, placing spending limits will help level the playing field to all candidates. The limits have not been set as of yet, but the recommendation is to create a new Act dealing with local campaign finance rules.

Standardization of Financial Returns: Something that I think that most bloggers and journalists will like is the standardization of campaign financial returns, and the centralization of said returns at Elections BC. Currently, every BC local government has a different system of recording campaign finances which are stored at the local government building. This makes obtaining the financial records for each local municipality hard and direct comparison even harder. Under the recommended system, all one would have to do to get campaign finance information is to go to Elections BC, thus making access much easier and the system more transparent.

Implementing Controls And Limits On Third Parties: There is no use in implementing campaign spending limits on candidate if such limits can be circumvented by unlimited spending on third parties. The report recommends that third parties be required to: 1) register to advertise to local elections; 2) disclose all advertising; and 3) only spend to a certain limit.

No Corporate Vote: Another one of the Task Force’s duties was to examine the implementation of a corporate vote. To their credit, it was recommended that the corporate vote not be implemented. This is good: only individual citizens should vote in election, not a group of people that formed to create an legal artificial person.

The Neutral

Expanding Local Government From 3 to 4 Years: I don’t mind if a person elected to local government serves 3 or 4 years, but the trend, from local referenda, to Union of BC Municipalities resolutions, to moves on other jurisdictions, seem to point to four years.

The Bad

Not Implementing Campaign Donation Limits Or Restrictions: The most disappointing thing about this report is that is does not place limits or restrictions on campaign donations. This means that anybody can donate as much as they like to a campaign, which in the most extreme form, could result in a few people funding an entire candidate’s campaign. As well, this means that corporations and labour can still donate to local campaign, which I think should not be allowed because I believe that only those that are allowed to participate in voting, the individual citizen, should be the only ones that are able to participate financially by donating.

Not Implementing Public Financing: Less of a disappointment by its omission is the lack of public financing for local campaigns. One can get a tax credit for donating to provincial or federal campaign, so I don’t see why citizens shouldn’t get the same incentive for donating locally. Then again, I can understand the Task Force’s reasoning for not implementing this: the other changes will already cost a lot of money to implement, and this would only increase the bill.

Not Even Considering Voting Reform: Something that was not even considered at any point during the process was a change to the voting method. I think this is an opportunity lost, especially since our current local voting system discourages citizens from voting for all positions available on a local government board, as by doing so one could give a candidate they sort of liked the one vote needed to defeat the candidate they really liked.

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