Election spending limits won’t change much

Candidates in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows were close to thresholds.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read spent $50

The provincial government is putting the brake on civic election spending, but the proposed spending limits will have little effect on spending habits in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, based on the last election.

Candidate spending limits are based on a per capita formula, according to an Oct. 22 release from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

In Maple Ridge, with a population of about 76,000, a mayoralty candidate could spend $48,550, while a council candidate could spend $24,580.

The former limit would be just below what the top spender in the November 2014 election, Nicole Read, spent, and well over what the two nearest rivals spent.

Read spent $50,867 during the last election, while nearest rivals Michael Morden and Ernie Daykin spent $39,330 and $29,354, respectively.

“Given that I spent pretty close to that threshold, I don’t think, for me, it doesn’t make a huge difference. I think the limits are good,” Read said.

People generally don’t spend that much more in civic elections, though she didn’t know the amounts in other cities.

“I think that’s definitely enough money to run a campaign.”

Council veterans Craig Speirs and Bob Masse spent, $7,011 and $6,834, respectively, during the 2014 campaign.

Masse was also happy with the proposed limits.

“I think those numbers sound high enough to me as long as it’s somewhat population-related. I don’t mind the concept.”

The limits help ensure that people from all walks of life have a chance of getting elected, he added.

Newcomers to council Tyler Shymkiw spent $18,400 and Kiersten Duncan, $15,753, while Corisa Bell spent $8,988 in getting elected to a second term.

In Pitt Meadows, the limit would be $16,650 for mayoralty candidates, based on a population of about 18,000.

In the 2014 campaign, Mayor John Becker spent $15,250 versus $13,159 by Michael Hayes and virtually nothing by the third mayoralty candidate, Gary Paller.

For a city with a population of 150,000, the mayoralty spending limit would be $89,250 and hit $149,250 for a city of 250,000.

An extra 15 cents per capita is added after 250,000 for the biggest cities, meaning a mayoral campaign would be capped at $188,750 in Surrey and about $208,000 in Vancouver.

I think they’ve got this right,” said Dermod Travis, executive-director for Integrity B.C., adding the sliding scale reflects the different needs of small and large communities.

“It’s unfortunate the other half of the equation is not being tackled at the same time, which would be donations. But I think they’ve found a good middle for where those caps should be on expenses.”

It will make it harder for well-funded candidates to use advertising firepower to beat their opponents, he predicted.

“You’re going to see less money getting spent, which means candidates have to raise less money. Which means that they’re actually going to have to campaign more in terms of meeting voters rather than buying ads.”

The recommendations were developed by a special legislative committee and have support of both the B.C. Liberals and NDP, as well as the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

Travis said the new spending caps would have forced many winning candidates to spend less than they did in the 2014 local government elections.

According to the committee report, 31 mayoral candidates and 69 council candidates across B.C. spent more last year than the proposed new limits will allow.

The expense limits would apply from Jan. 1 of the election year until voting day.

Third-party advertisers are to be limited to spending no more than five per cent of the cap of a candidate within a 28-day campaign period, up to a cumulative maximum of $150,000 province-wide.

The government is taking public comments in a final round of consultations until Nov. 27 before the bill is expected to pass.

 

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