From an Integrity BC Post: 2014, The Last Hurrah for Big Money in BC Local Elections (rules have changed for the 2018 election):
‘Time to start taking an in-depth look at who donated what and to who in the 2014 local elections and subsequent byelections.’
Donations by the Property Development Industry to the current slate in the City of North Vancouver. The only current (non slate) Council member is Rod Clark, the recipient of a small donation ($400). The donations from the larger developers totalled $62,467, and there were further donations from individuals in the development Industry. The full list is available on facebook at IntegrityBC .
This article was published earlier in the print edition of The Global Canadian, which is now available online. As we move further into the local election year (Oct 2018), we thought the comments in the article by various people including Council members are worth noting:
‘The new BC government led by NDP is proposing a ban on corporate and union donations and limiting individual donations to $1200.’
Worries Continue About Big Money in Small-Town Politics
Former Sunshine Coast mayor asks whether new election rules will have sufficient teeth.
New rules introduced for municipal elections in British Columbia are a step forward, but may not be enough without strong support for enforcement, says a former Sunshine Coast mayor.
“The rules are only practical if they’re going to be enforced and if there are consequences for breaking the rules,” said Barry Janyk, who served in local government in Gibsons for 15 years starting in 1996, including 12 years as mayor.
“If people want to cheat the system and they have the resources to do it, then they’ll do it. I don’t know what the answer is.”
In the fall session of the legislature, the provincial government passed a bill that set a cap of $1,200 each year for individual donations to any one candidate or to candidates running as part of the same elector organization, or party.
A donor can still give $1,200 to multiple candidates if they are running independently and not part of an official slate or to candidates in several municipalities. Bill 15, the Local Elections Campaign Financing Amendment Act, 2017, also banned all donations from outside of the province, as well as those from corporations and unions.
A spokesperson for Elections BC, Andrew Watson, said in an email, “Elections BC is confident that we will be able to administer the changes to the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act effectively, and will seek additional resources if necessary.”
Uneven playing field
The day the bill was introduced, Union of British Columbia Municipalities president Wendy Booth endorsed the change. “Elections shouldn’t be won or lost on who has the most money,” she said. “We think these changes will level the playing field for candidates.”
Concerns about municipal election financing, particularly in Vancouver, go back many years. The Tyee published City Hall for Sale, a series that a decade ago exposed the “lax regulations that allow virtually unlimited contributions with little public scrutiny.”
In October, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson said the changes were needed in smaller communities as well. “I’ve certainly heard stories in different communities and the one that stands out is in the Sunshine Coast where a $20,000 contribution was made to a mayoral candidate,” she said. “In that campaign in a small community it was a significant contribution.”
The current mayor of Gibsons, Wayne Rowe, didn’t respond to requests for an interview.
According to a spreadsheet Janyk made using Elections BC data from the 2014 municipal elections, Gibsons had the highest spending per capita of any community in the province. Candidates and third parties spent more than $19 per person in the community, more than double what was spent in Vancouver.
Janyk said the amount spent on the election is a sign of business interests hoping to influence the outcome.
In particular, a plan from Klaus Fuerniss Enterprises Inc. for a marine resort and condominiums on the waterfront has been controversial in the community.
The plan was first proposed around a decade ago, and Janyk opposed it as mayor. “I got cold feet on the whole plan because I thought it was so out of step with the little town of Gibsons.”
The community was already struggling to adjust to development, he said. There’s a need to find more drinking water, he said, adding, “The ferries are a gong show, always overloaded, always late.”
‘Development plum’ and influence
People have been willing to spend money to influence elections in Gibsons because they hope to benefit from projects council can block or approve, Janyk said. “It’s all about money. That’s all it’s about. It’s made me really cynical about local politics in a community where there’s a development plum.”
Even with the new rules, much will depend on people’s honesty and integrity, he said. When something is improper, he said, “Unless you get someone who’s going to leak it, it’s very difficult to prove it.”
Elections BC’s budget request for 2018/19 included $1.69 million to administer campaign financing rules during the 2018 municipal elections. The agency added 11 full-time staff in 2014 after the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act was first adopted.
Watson said Elections BC didn’t seek more funding to administer the changes made last fall because Bill 15 had not yet passed when the agency appeared in front of the legislature’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services during the budget process in November.
“We are working to determine if additional resources are required to administer the requirements of the Bill, and will meet with the committee early this year with a supplementary funding request if required,” he said.
Elections BC tries to resolve any compliance issues through education first, Watson said, but can take further steps if necessary.
“The Chief Electoral Officer has the authority to conduct reviews, investigations and audits of the financial affairs and accounts of candidates, elector organizations, third party sponsors and assent voting advertising sponsors to ensure compliance with [the law],” he said.
“They also have the authority to require individuals or organizations to provide further information respecting compliance with the Act. We follow up any complaint we receive regarding potential contraventions of the Act, and may initiate an investigation if required.”
The new law made the rules retroactively effective starting on Oct. 31. Local elections will be held across the province on Oct. 20, 2018.
‘Big Money’ to Be Booted Out of Municipal Politics READ MORE
More often than not, New Year’s resolutions are campaign promises we make to ourselves; something to try for a bit before reluctantly admitting that doing Pilates and balancing the federal budget isn’t really for us.
But we’re suggesting something different this Dec. 31. Instead of making a resolution for yourself, make one for your mayor and council. Because if 2017 was about gathering facts, 2018 has to be about putting those facts to work.
Thanks to a fresh batch of census data, we know our daily gridlock is driven by the 41 per cent of our workforce that can’t afford to live here. We know population, income, and transit use have all dropped in West Vancouver. We know almost half of renters across the North Shore are paying more than they can afford. Other agencies have shown us rising rates of homelessness and the spread of Airbnbs.
Armed with that information, we find ourselves looking at the next 12 months like children marvelling at the possibilities of untouched snow. Instead of quarreling over that odious term: “relative affordability,” our elected officials can pursue rental housing that corresponds with the paycheques of firefighters, police officers, nurses and those other commuters it might be handy to have around in an emergency. Instead of an air of indifference, we can resolve to put bylaw officers on the street to shield our housing market from the ravages of the sharing economy.
Mark Twain once noted that a week after New Year’s resolutions are made, “you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” Twain was right. But 2018 is an election year, which means that if this council doesn’t have the proper resolve, we can vote in one that does.
Are you finding Monday night TV dull? Might I suggest tuning in to NV City council meetings at 6:00 via the city website*. It’s akin to watching CNN but these politics are happening right here in our little city and are affecting our quality of life – every one of us, present and future.
It doesn’t take long to realize that members of our elected council don’t get along well; it soon becomes obvious that there is a concerted effort to prevent the public’s voice from being heard; you’ll get frustrated with the high-falutin’ language used to discuss issues; you may get angry with the constant 4-3 votes in favour of serious changes within our home territory, in spite of large public opposition and you may want to “Boo” loud and clear when the mayor congratulates himself on speeding through another meeting.
City council watching is certainly not dull! You’re either with the powers-that-be or against them but either way next October it’s OUR TURN to take control and have OUR WAY with them —- Election 2018!
So for good entertainment, on the spot education – Watch your city council in action on Monday Nights, form an opinion and , for Heaven’s Sake, Vote next October !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Only 344 days until the next election on the North Shore.
Oct. 20, 2018. Circle the date.
It’s a Saturday, so that should make it easier to cast your ballot.
Here’s hoping something works, because voter turnout in municipal elections is dismal.
It’s not just a local problem. Everywhere across North America, turnouts are typically under 30 per cent.
The North Shore is no exception – 27 per cent of those eligible turned up to vote in the District of West Vancouver, 28 per cent in the City of North Vancouver and only 23 per cent in the District of North Vancouver.
Two out of three of the mayors, Michael Smith in West Van and Richard Walton in North Van District, were acclaimed, i.e., elected without opposition.
To me, it’s the great mystery of the age why folks don’t vote, especially in municipal elections.
Lots of people vote for premier or prime minister, even though Justin Trudeau has loftier fish to fry than the good people who deliberate over keeping your streets safe, collecting your trash, deciding if you do or do not need a stop sign at the foot of your street, or deliberating on that proposal to put a 20-storey tower next door.
Because all that and more is the responsibility of your municipal council, and by some miracle, we are somehow gifted with intelligent, competent and hardworking municipal leaders such as the abovementioned Smith, Walton, and their City counterpart Darrell Mussatto.
And all the others who eat, breathe and sleep politics.
It’s a myth that being a municipal councillor is a part-time job.
Part time for a workaholic, maybe.
But count on it: whenever your neighbourhood association, fraternal organization, or constituent assembly has a meeting (usually in the off hours), you can count on the presence of a municipal politician, quietly doing his or her job.
You could argue that they’re just working the vote, and yes, they do have to get themselves re-elected if they want to keep serving the public.
But isn’t it a thankless task when they serve the public and more than two out of three don’t bother to acknowledge their efforts by voting?
If you disagree with me, just turn up and vote in the next election, 344 days away. Plenty of time to plan.
My point is, it’s not the fault of the politicians – or maybe it is.
It could be they’re so good, we take them for granted.
Leap ahead to the first work day after Oct. 20, 2018 and it’s a sure bet that the leaves will be swept out of the drains, the trash will be collected, bylaw officers will still be issuing tickets, schools will be open and kids will be learning.
Situation normal. For now.
But I’m afraid that like newspapers (present company excluded, of course), democracy at the local level is becoming a sunset industry.
Older people vote in much higher numbers than the rest of the population. Is it because they’re the last ones who remember what they sacrificed to keep democracy safe for a bunch of ingrates who can’t make it three blocks to the voters booth?
Lest we forget.
I’m not sure how to solve this. I’m not even sure there is a solution.
Marks for trying, although I am worried that the NVCAA will appeal to the same people who are already engaged: the handful of political wonks who steadfastly attend Monday night council meetings and town halls.
There are some who think online voting is the answer. And maybe it is. Instead of all that bricks and mortar activity, just press a button.
You could even register on Facebook.
If you can buy marijuana or a car online, why not elect a school trustee, council or mayor?
If you’re worried about Vladimir Putin hacking the voters list, or making up fake news about the District of North Van, surely he’s too busy messing with the U.S. or the U.K. to worry about the NV.
Got a better idea?
Journalist and communications consultant Paul Sullivan has been a North Vancouver resident since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Madonna. firstname.lastname@example.org