More transparency for local election campaign funding

Lynsey Kitching

 

Now open for public comment, the public has six weeks to review proposed significant changes to local elections legislation. The changes include campaign finance rules through a white paper released by the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes.

The proposed new Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) incorporates the majority of the recommendations proposed by the joint provincial-UBCM Local Government Elections Task Force and it is the first time local election campaign rules will be in a separate, standalone act which, if passed, takes effect November 2014.

Local government election rules apply to municipalities, regional districts, parks boards, the Islands Trust and boards of education.

Highlights of the proposed LECFA include; disclosure and registration by third-party advertisers; sponsor ship information requirements for all election advertising; a campaign finance disclosure statements to be filed 90 days, rather than 120, following an election; banning anonymous contributions; and enabling a key role for Elections BC in the compliance and enforcement of campaign finance rules in municipal elections.

All sponsorship contributions and value of third-party advertising must be disclosed and significant contributors providing $100 or more to an election must be identified. Also, candidates and elector organizations election advertising must have sponsorship identification, authorization statement and contact details.

If the new LECFA is passed, candidates and elector organizations would have to record campaign period expenses and third-party advertising sponsors must register with Elections BC before sponsoring any election advertising.

People who would like to comment on the proposal have until Oct. 23, 2013 to do so. In November 2013, a separate stakeholder engagement process on expense limits begins that will inform further legislative changes slated for the 2017 local elections. The white paper is available on the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development’s website at www.localgovelectionreform.gov.bc.ca

Oakes says, “We want the transition to the new rules to be as smooth as possible for local elections participants and those considering running for local government, so they understand their campaign finance responsibilities and obligations – that’s why we’re releasing the White Paper now. Many of the changes elaborate on existing rules making them easier to understand, while others address gaps. Ultimately they’re designed to enhance voter confidence in the system.”

UBCM president Mary Sjostrom says, “With changes coming, local governments are looking for clarification on the direction of elections legislation. The Province’s white paper provides local leaders with an opportunity to see how the recommendations may be implemented prior to the 2014 election and provide feedback.”

The next municipal election will be Nov. 15, 2014.