A lawyer and incumbent councillor looking to be Pitt Meadows next mayor revealed his list of campaign contributors and has challenged others to do the same, although details don’t have to be disclosed until after the election.
John Becker posted his list of donations, which includes CUPE, three families (Bachmann, Augustines and Capteins), as well as Ecowest Renovations, for a total of $2,275, to his campaign website (http://johnbecker.ca/).
Campaign financing disclosure statements must be filed within 120 days of an election, or by March 19, 2012.
“I chose to disclose my campaign contributors early – before the election – as my way of building trust through transparency,” said Becker.
In a post on his website Monday, that’s since been removed, Becker suggested a developer had been canvassing people in a certain Pitt Meadows subdivision, urging them to vote for a “developer-friendly” candidate, who wasn’t him.
He stressed he has not accepted any contributions from developers.
“There are many wonderful development proposals that come to Pitt Meadows and when I vote on these proposals I want the residents to trust that my decisions are free from any perceived conflict of interest,” he said.
“For me, the disclosure issue is simply about trust and transparency. With that said, I am hopeful that we can now turn our attention to more pressing campaign issues, such as my proposed zero increase in taxes budgeting process because that’s what I’ll bring to the forefront as mayor.”
Becker’s opponents, though, refused to be drawn into the challenge as they fight for a seat that’s been held by current mayor Don MacLean for 12 years.
Gary Paller said he has not been approached by developers, but did not want to disclose his contributors list.
Deb Walters, meanwhile, will follow election laws regarding disclosure because “it is the only system that is transparent and accountable.”
“A candidate’s voluntary disclosure part way through an election comes with no guarantees of accuracy, and does not, in any way, prohibit election day donations being accepted,” said Walters.
“Also, while it’s great that John has the means to self-finance his campaign, I don’t think the democratic process should be limited only to the wealthiest individuals.”
Walters, though, wondered if Becker would withdraw himself from discussions before council that involve clients represented by his law firm, Becker and Company, should he become mayor.
“I have no doubt that John has the best of intentions in bringing up the issue of campaign transparency. It’s all well and good to not take campaign donations from people, but I believe that if a company you own is being paid to represent people or development corporations that are before council, citizens have a right to know of that relationship.”
Becker said he would follow conflict of interest rules when clients appear before council.
“My position has always been based on trust and transparency and adherence to our conflict of interest rules. This is how I’ve conducted myself at my law practice, city council meetings, and it will be no different as mayor.”
While Becker’s mayoral seat rivals have shot down his challenge, others vying for a seat on council are willing to comply.
John Clancy, who first tried for a council seat in 2008, wasn’t planning on revealing his list because there’s only one person on it – himself.
On his Facebook page in October, Clancy challenged all other candidates to self-finance their campaigns and do so with a $1,000 limit.
“I didn’t get any takers,” he said. “So far, I have contributed a little over $400 to myself, if anyone cares to know.”
George Coghlan is also self-financing his campaign.
Charm Prophet had “no problem” revealing her list of contributors, who are mostly family and friends.
“At this point, I believe transparency and honesty from all candidates should be top priority for the residents of Pitt Meadows,” she said.
Gay Conn, meanwhile, has accepted donations from four people who are all friends.
Dave Murray, secretary-treasurer of the CUPE Fraser Valley District Labour Council, received $16,500 from 12 union groups, including CUPE National, CUPE British Columbia, as well as CUPE locals from Port Coquitlam, UBC, Abbotsford, Surrey, Langley Township and the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District local.
Incumbent Coun. Doug Bing has received two unsolicited $100 cheques from relatives, one from an elderly aunt in Vancouver and another from an elderly uncle in Victoria.
“I am not sure yet whether to cash them or return them, as neither of them is wealthy, so I am not sure if they will be officially put on my disclosure forms or not,” Bing said.
Other incumbents, including Bruce Bell, Gwen O’Connell and Tracy Miyashita, who support Walters bid for mayor, will not be revealing their campaign contributors early.
Bell does not have any outside contributions in this election, but said if he did, he wouldn’t release them before they were due.
“I would follow the normal rules as they are laid out,” he added, pointing out that Becker is using a firm with call centres in Toronto and New Brunswick to solicit voters during the election, although he has received a contribution from CUPE.
“It is too bad that he did not use a call centre in B.C. as some of them are unionized instead of going outside of the province.”
Mike Stark, a first-time candidate, is also sticking to the election disclosure rules.
“If John Becker thinks that the law should be changed to suit him, then he should lobby the government to do so before the next election. Until such time, he should abide by the current laws governing elections. Is he trying to use the law for political advantage? If he is, I find this very distasteful,” Stark said.
Janis Elkerton, a former Pitt Meadows politician who is seeking a return to council, believes it’s an issue of perception.
“The issue is not whether you have received a donation from a supporter,” said Elkerton, who served for 14 years on Pitt Meadows council before resigning in 2008 to recuperate from injuries sustained in a car accident.
“The issue is whether there is a perceived conflict of interest should a campaign contributor have development proposals or any business before council. If that should happen, the prudent course of action would be to step out of the discussion and council decision. Otherwise, only wealthy people could afford to run for council, and that is not democracy.”
John Becker campaign donations:
CUPE – $250
Joe Bachmann – $200
Augustine Family – $750
Captein Family – $75
Ecowest Renovations – $1000