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

June 1, 2010 Comments off

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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BC Local Government Elections Task Force Composition Disappointing

December 7, 2009 Comments off

At the 2009 Union of BC Municipalities Convention, the BC Liberals announced the creation of an Local Government Elections Task Force charged with making changes to the municipal electoral process.

Last Friday, the composition of that task force was announced, and I’ve got to say I’m really disappointed.

First of all, the 6 person task force is composed of 6 politicians: 3 provincial and 3 municipal. One would think that a Task Force dealing with this subject matter would have at least 1 person that has had the responsibility of organizing an election, not just competed in one.

Secondly, out of the 3 provincial politicians, 3 are BC Liberals. Again, one would think that this Task Force would have at least 1 BC New Democrat, for the reasons that: 1) the election process is supposed to be non-partisan, and 2) one would think that having a different perspective for a person who has run in an election would be useful.

Honestly, for a political party which I will admit has made positive forward strides in the area of municipal government in the past, I really expected a better task force from the BC Liberals, not this overly political, overly partisan group.

BC Liberals Promise New Local Government Elections Act At UBCM

October 2, 2009 Comments off

One of the more interesting announcements at this year’s Union of BC Municipalities convention is the BC Liberals’ pledge to create a new Local Government Elections Act based on the recommendation of a Local Government Elections Taskforce. Considering that discussions relating to the reform of municipal election rules have been increasing brought into the public radar, now is a good time to work on and pass new legislation on the issue.

One of the most solid proposals for this Act is to make the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections BC the independent administrator, supervisor, and enforcer of a common elections process, which at my first glance sound like a good idea.

Beyond that, it seems that most of the contents of the Act are on the table to be discussed.

For instance, there is to be a discussion on whether to expand the term of municipal elected officials from 3 years to 4 years. This issue has been discussed for a while, and 4 municipalities even had a referendum on the issue, in which 3 out of 4 had voters support the idea. I’m still not sure if I’m for or against it, myself.

Another discussion is about campaign finance reform.  Considering at present municipal campaigns can use an unlimited amount of funds coming from anywhere, some changes to make the system more fair are needed. I believe that a solid maximum limit spent on a campaign is needed; the limit could be a certain amount of dollars per voter in order to it to make sense for both small and large municipality. I also think that corporations and unions should be barred from making campaign donations.

The BC Liberals also want to discuss giving the vote to business and industry than pay property taxes within the city. I disagree with doing so; a municipal election should be between local citizens and the candidates, not non-present “artificial persons.”

I’ll end this post with something that’s probably not on the table but should be: the method in which we vote. Right now, municipal elections use a plurality at-large system, in which the top X (X being council size) placing candidates win a place in council. This encourages people to “plump” their vote, that is, to vote for the candidate(s) than they really like to see win and not vote for anybody else, because voting for a candidate one sort of likes may give that candidate that one vote needed to beat the candidate that one really likes. We should look at preferential systems of voting which are currently being used in Scottish municipalities.

Suggesting Positive Solutions: Carole James At UBCM

October 2, 2009 Comments off

The Union of BC Municipalities’ annual convention is always one of the biggest shows in BC Politics; politicians of all stripes and levels tend to announce new policies here. BC New Democrat leader Carole James wasn’t an exception; besides highlighting the fact that the BC Liberals cannot be trusted, she announced five BC New Democrat policies:

  1. Protecting the fishery by involving local and First Nation governments while moving to closed containment.
  2. Restoring control of Translink to elected officials instead of officials appointed by the provincial government.
  3. Moving BC’s fixed election date to the fall. This has actually been on the radar for some time, as the current May fixed election date causes major problems with setting the provincial budget in election years. Right now, in an election year, a budget is passed in February, with nobody knowing if that budget will actually be implemented because of a change of government (or because the current government is lying to improve their chances of getting reelected.) Then after an election a budget update has to be created. A fall election would cut down these problems.
  4. Creating an Independent Provincial Budget Officer. Considering that all BC governments from Social Credit to New Democrats to Liberals have manipulated BC budgets to make the opposition look bad and themselves look good, an Independent Budget Officer is long overdue and would ensure that British Columbians are receiving the correct figures.
  5. Establishing a Green Fund. The Green Fund would provide stimulus to the hard-hit rural communities of BC by investing in the implementation of Green technologies and the expansion of mass transit. However, the $150 million a year used to fund this program has to come from somewhere; therefore the BC New Democrats would cancel unimplemented corporate tax cuts. Considering that the BC Government is suffering from reductions in revenue, it makes little sense to further reduce that revenue even more at this point. The Green Fund not only demonstrates part of the BC New Democrats’ environmental vision, it also shows that the they are willing to make tough decisions based on economic realities.

My biggest concern about this speech is the “Us versus Them” tone that it takes. It seems to me that it appeals more to the current BC New Democrat base rather than expanding it. Considering that the BC New Democrats have been receiving above 40% in the last two elections, the priority needs to be obtaining the last few percentage points needed to win government, not working on the already strong base.

But overall, this speech marks a small first step in providing a positive vision for British Columbians that follows the economic and political realities. Of course, much more work needs to be done; a few policies does not make a vision. But there is always the 2009 BC NDP convention.

A Willingness To Extend Municipal Terms To 4 Years?

November 16, 2008 2 comments

In those places that have 3 year municipal terms, there seems to be a demand from councils to lengthen those terms to 4 years.

Now, results from four BC municipal referenda show that there might be support public support for such a move. 3 out of the 4 referenda gave support for such a move.

Now, these referenda came about because the provincial government told municipalities to consult with their citizens on this matter. Since there were only four municipalities that actually took them up on the offer, I doubt that the government is going to take any action to lengthen municipal terms.

The interesting question, however, is what is going to be the reaction of other BC municipalities on this matter? Will they now hold their own consultative referenda on this matter? I think that the results of these four referendum might encourage municipalities to do just that.

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Putting Some Humour In Municipal Elections

October 30, 2008 Comments off

While most people running for council tend to take their elections way too seriously, the Vancouver Coalition of Progressive Electors party has released two rather funny political ads. While I’m not sure if these ads by themselves would garner much votes, I’m sure they would attract enough attention for people to have a closer look at their platform.

P.S.: The “NPA” guy in the second ad has a BEARD!

Categories: Local Government

Carole Taylor’s Political Future

November 30, 2007 1 comment

The announcement that Carole Taylor is quitting provincial politics by the next election having only served one term in the BC Legislature has created a flood of speculation about her political future.

So, just for fun, I’ll join in.

I think it’s quite obvious that she will probably never be Leader of the BC Liberals and in the contest for Premier: Campbell isn’t going to go away for the 2009 Election and by the time the 2013 Election rolls around, she’ll be 68 (Well, she could pull a Ronald Reagan, who was 70 when he become President).

Running federally? Gimme a break! Taylor is supposedly a federal Liberal. Somehow, I don’t see her going from Finance Minister to opposition backbencher under Dion.

Running for Mayor of Vancouver? There seems to be some faint evidence that she just might do that, as she has not ruled out the idea and some polling measuring potential support has been conducted.

But then again, Mayor of Vancouver would not be a sure thing: Sam Sullivan has been raising lots of money for a second campaign and is the incumbent.

And come to think of it, a campaign with both Sullivan and Taylor might just split the right wing vote and get a left-leaning mayor elected.  That is, if the two morons on the left get their act together.

Don’t forget too, that the municipal elections are in 2008, requiring Taylor to step down from the Legislature.

Retire? I don’t think that this statement is leaning that way

“I am at a point in my life were I can work pretty hard. Because when you are a young mom and in politics it is pretty difficult. I have a lot of freedom right now. I have time and the opportunity to choose what I would like to do next.”

So, it sounds like Taylor is planning something or other.  Question is, what? It seems that the potential (political) paths ahead are filled with large risks which could cause her downfall.

Not that I would be very upset with that.