Brian Hicks calls for more municipal election accountability
Municipal election candidates aren't required to disclose funding sources or limit spending
The lack of regulations regarding political campaign funding at the municipal level could pose problems in May's elections, says a Moncton city councillor.
While candidates in federal and provincial elections must comply with rules around election spending, anyone running at the municipal level does not have to disclose the sources of their campaign funding, nor is there a ceiling on how much they can spend.
That doesn't sit well with Brian Hicks, a veteran Moncton councillor, who was first elected in 1999.
Hicks said he feels provincial laws should be updated to make campaign funding more transparent and equal for all municipal candidates.
It's just for openness and transparency.- Brian Hicks, Moncton councillor
"It's just for openness and transparency," said Hicks.
"In council, it's very unique where you have 11 people sitting and many times you'll get, especially on land re-zoning issues, people coming before council.
"And right now, you have no idea if that individual has donated financially to any one of the elected representatives on council. I think that should be public."
Not a new issue
The issue also surfaced prior to the province's municipal elections in 2008 and 2012.
In 2011, Moncton council passed a motion recommending the Cities of New Brunswick Association and the Association of Francophone Municipalities take the issue to the Department of Local Government.
Hicks admits he gets unsolicited campaign donations from time to time.
"I've received cheques in the past. I do the same thing every year. I'll void the cheque and send them back a note thanking them … everybody runs their campaign differently."
Risk higher in larger centres
Failing to limit campaign spending and disclose donors could open the door to political interference, and should be a bigger concern to the public, according to one expert.
Geoff Martin, a political science professor at Mount Allison University, says the risk is more pronounced in larger centres.
I suspect we don't have much in the way of brown envelopes of cash being handed over.- Geoff Martin, political science professor
"I suspect we don't have much in the way of brown envelopes of cash being handed over, but there may be an issue of, particularly when people are running expensive campaigns in an urban environment, the secrecy of who is providing donations to which candidates and what kind of decisions they make," he said.
The Liberal party's election platform in 2014 said it would look into the issue.
The Liberals stated they would keep government more accountable by, "Exploring appropriate limits and public disclosure of spending and donations for municipal elections."
Elections NB says they have not yet received any instructions regarding changes to the policy.
The Department of Local Government says they are continuing to work on the issue.