B.C. government introduces campaign finance reform to municipal politics

A month after bringing forward legislation to ban union and corporate political donations at the provincial level, B.C.'s government is doing the same at the local level.

Changes will go into effect Oct. 31 but money previously raised can be used for next year's elections

Under new legislation, individual donations for municipal elections will be limited to $1,200 a year. (CBC)

A month after bringing forward legislation to ban union and corporate political donations at the provincial level, B.C.'s government is doing the same at the local level. 

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson announced the legislation Monday, saying it would affect all local elections for mayor, council, school board and B.C.'s electoral areas.

"It's been a wild west in political fundraising here, and people want change. Deep pockets shouldn't decide elections — people should," Robinson told reporters.

The government says in addition to the ban on corporate and union donations, individuals will be limited to $1,200 in donations per year to the campaign of any one candidate or local political party. Donors would, however, be allowed to pledge up to $1,200 to each of multiple unconnected candidates or elector organizations.

While the ban will be retroactive to Oct. 31, 2017, money raised by individuals and parties prior to then will be allowed to be used in the 2018 municipal elections.

In 2015, the Union of B.C. Municipalities had asked the previous Liberal government to make similar changes to campaign financing, to no avail. UBCM president Wendy Booth said Monday the new legislation will bring fairness to municipal politics.

"We think these changes will level the playing field for candidates," she told reporters.

'Long overdue' change

The move also earned the support of the mayors of Oak Bay and Vancouver.

Oak Bay's Nils Jensen described the new rules as an important step in the evolution of British Columbia's democracy.

"It is an unequivocal rejection of the practice that allowed the influence of big money to shape elections and thus the rule of the people," he said.

"Money can undermine people's confidence in democracy, and, of course, big money can undermine confidence in a big way."

Meanwhile, Vancouver's Gregor Robertson said the changes are "long overdue."

"We have been calling for these changes for many years. I wholeheartedly support the spirit of the new steps taken and I'm looking forward to reviewing the legislation in detail in the coming days," he said.

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