Nomination period begins for 2018 B.C. elections
But 3rd party advertisers can continue to spend without scrutiny for another 18 days
Election season is underway in all of B.C.'s 162 municipalities. Nominations officially opened on Tuesday.
People hoping to run for mayor, council or school board (along with the park board in Vancouver) in the 2018 civic election, scheduled provincewide for Oct. 20, now have until Sept. 14 to submit their nomination papers.
However, the official campaign period does not begin until Sept. 22, meaning outside groups can continue to spend without any limits — or any disclosure — for two more weeks.
"Outside of the campaign period ... third party advertising is not regulated," confirmed Elections B.C. spokesperson Andrew Watson.
"After that, [they] need to register with Elections B.C. before conducting any advertising and include their name and contact information on their advertising. Expense limits also apply, and they need to file a finance report ... but outside of the campaign period, third party advertising is not regulated under the Local Elections Campaign Finance Act.
Watson said that individuals can contact Elections B.C. if they have any concerns about advertisements.
"Usually, depending on the situation, our first step is always education about the rules before taking additional compliance steps, but we'll certainly follow up," he said.
New rules, new mayors
Municipal elections in B.C. this year are particularly significant this year for two reasons.
The first is new campaign finance rules are in place for the first time, which ban corporate and union donations, limit individuals to $1,200 in donations to the campaign of any one candidate or local party and put spending caps on all candidates and parties (the full list of which can be found here).
"We've been receiving questions from political participants about the new rules, and that's our role at the local level," said Watson.
Secondly, the Metro Vancouver region has seen a historic number of mayors decide not to seek re-election: Twelve, representing two-thirds of the area's residents are calling it quits, including Vancouver's Gregor Robertson and Surrey's Linda Hepner.
The only two Metro Vancouver leaders who have not publicly made a decision yet are Coquitlam's Richard Stewart and West Vancouver's Michael Smith.
What will turnout be?
While Elections B.C. ensures campaign finance laws are adhered to, each municipality in B.C. is responsible for the administration and promotion of their own election.
Daniel Fontaine, who is running for council with the New West Progressives, argues it's a concern that no larger group is responsible for promoting turnout in local races.
"I have been knocking on doors all summer, and I am struck by the number of citizens who have no idea it is an election year," he said in a statement.
"At a minimum, all local governments ... and their representatives at [the Union of B.C. Municipalities] and Metro Vancouver should be setting targets to increase voter turnout well above the shockingly low levels we see today."
For its part, the City of Vancouver is hoping to increase turnout from 43.4 per cent of registered voters in 2014 to 48 per cent this year.
"We've been at it since June," said Rosemary Hagiwara, the city's chief election officer. She said the city would be partnering with groups to target young voters, Indigenous people and new Canadians.
In Vancouver, advanced voting will run between Oct. 10 and 17.
"We encourage voters to consider advanced voting, because wait times will be much shorter than election day," said Hagiwara.
Information on how to vote in Vancouver can be found here.