Saskatchewan's largest cities, Saskatoon and Regina, differ when it comes to campaign financing for election to city council.

Both cities have bylaws that address such issues as campaign spending limits and the disclosure of donations but the details are very different.

Spending limits

For example, in Saskatoon campaign spending limits are based on a formula linked to the population of the city while Regina uses a spending limit where increases are tied to the consumer price index.

Here are the limits for the 2016 municipal elections (rounded to the nearest $1,000). In Regina, the limits (which are being adjusted for the CPI) must be approved by city council:

  • Saskatoon (mayor) $190,000.
  • Saskatoon (city council): $19,000.
  • Regina (mayor): $67,000.
  • Regina (city council): $11,000.

Disclosure of donations

When it comes to the disclosure of sources for campaign funds, the rules vary.

In Regina, for example, candidates for mayor must disclose the names of donors who contribute $500 or more. Ward candidates must disclose the names of donors who contribute $200 or more. Also in Regina, there is nothing prohibiting a corporation or a union from donating and there is no limit placed on donations (but the candidate may not spend beyond the spending limits).

In Saskatoon, while there is no limitation when it comes to union or corporate donors, the city will (for the 2020 election) require candidates to disclose the names of donors who contribute $100 or more.

Accounting for contribution funds

Regina's bylaw also requires candidates to open a trust account to receive campaign contributions. Candidates must spend that money only on campaign expenses. They don't have to spend it all at once, however. Candidates with unspent money from one general election are allowed to use that for the very next general election. If they don't, the money in the account must be donated to a registered charity.

Saskatoon city council considered, but rejected, a recommendation concerning unspent contributions. However, members of council must file paperwork and state how they used money donated to their election campaigns. The forms, however, are not examined to determine if the statements are accurate.

Paul Jaspar, chair of the Saskatoon Municipal Review Commission, helped examine Saskatoon's bylaw relating to political donations.

He said a rule to limit contributions from unions and corporations would be a good idea.

"To disallow any perceived interest or benefit provided to a corporation or to a union," Jaspar said. "If they get their slate elected maybe there'd be some benefits with respect to bargaining. We're not saying there ever has been, but we're just saying it would be best practice to not allow those sort of donations."

Jaspar also commented on Saskatoon's lack of follow up when it comes to how money is spent.

"You would just fill out your form," he said. "With no follow up as to where that money will be spent. For instance, you could spend it on constituency business or you could give it to a charity but there is no follow up on what actually did happen to those funds."

With files from CBC's Stefani Langenegger