Legislation strengthens transparency, modernizes local election financing
Government is strengthening local election campaign financing rules to increase accountability and transparency for elections, ensuring people are at the centre of local politics.
The changes will modernize and strengthen the tools available to investigate and enforce campaign financing rules.
“In 2017, one of the government’s first initiatives was landmark legislation to put an end to big money in politics. We are continuing our work to make sure people are at the heart of decision-making,” said Josie Osborne, Minister of Municipal Affairs. “The changes we are proposing reflect the feedback we heard coming out of the 2018 local government elections, and they will make elections at the local government level more transparent and equitable for everyone.”
When passed, this legislation will strengthen local election campaign financing rules and will more closely align the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act rules with those established for provincial elections in the Election Act, while continuing to account for the unique nature of local elections. These changes include:
- establishing a pre-campaign period that increases the length of time election advertising is regulated from 29 days to 89 days;
- limiting sponsorship contributions to $1,200 to match the provincial campaign contribution limit set in 2017;
- requiring elector organizations to register with Elections BC; and
- providing Elections BC with new investigative tools to support investigations and additional penalties to fine people who do not comply with the new campaign financing rules.
Elector organizations, also known as civic or local political parties, will be required to register with Elections BC and complete annual financial reports just like provincial political parties. Elector organizations will be banned from accepting non-campaign contributions to pay for operational expenses, such as office supplies and staff salaries, in non-election years. This means they will have to fund all expenses through campaign contributions.
The legislation responds to analysis and consultation following the 2018 local government general elections. Key stakeholders were also consulted, such as:
- Elections BC;
- the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), which represents B.C.’s 189 local governments and the Islands Trust;
- First Nations that utilize the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act; and
- the B.C. School Trustees Association, which represents boards of education.
“These changes strengthen the rules governing local government election finance by increasing transparency,” said Brian Frenkel, president, UBCM. “Local governments endorsed a call for these changes in 2020, and we appreciate the government’s response well in advance of the next local government general election.”
Changes will apply to all local elections starting with the 2022 general local elections and any byelections that follow, including elections for councillors, mayors, electoral area directors and school trustees. Any byelections already underway or scheduled before 2022 are not affected.
However, the new rules relating to sponsorship contribution limits will be made retroactively, effective from March 4, 2021, to prevent banned sponsorship contributions from being made between the time legislation is introduced and royal assent.
- During B.C.’s local elections, held every four years, there are 1,660 elected positions voted on in 250 local government bodies in communities ranging in size from less than 200 people to more than 600,000 people.
- Elector organizations endorse candidates in local elections. They are often referred to as civic political parties.
Local Elections Campaign Financing Act:
2017 announcement on local election reforms to take big money out of politics:
A backgrounder follows.
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