Manitoba

Winnipeg mayor wants to kill campaign-donation rebates

Mayor Brian Bowman wants to end the practice of rebating Winnipeg election-campaign donations in a move one critic describes as a means of providing another advantage to incumbent candidates.

Move would save $700K; North Kildonan councillor says it would give incumbents another advantage

Mayor Brian Bowman says taxpayers shouldn't fund election campaigns. (CBC)

Mayor Brian Bowman wants to end the practice of rebating Winnipeg election-campaign donations in a move one critic describes as a means of providing another advantage to incumbent candidates.

Bowman and Coun. Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge) filed paperwork Thursday to trigger an April council vote on eliminating the city's practice of providing partial rebates for municipal campaign donations.

The rebate bylaw, which dates back to 2010, was passed by council to encourage more citizens to engage themselves in the municipal election process.

Under the bylaw, donors who make contributions between $25 and $300 receive a 75 per cent rebate after elections. For donations between $301 and $1,000, the rebate is $225, plus half the difference between the contribution and $300. 

For contributions of more than $1,000 the rebate is the lesser of $1,000, or $575 plus a third of the difference between the contribution and $1,000.

Bowman said in a notice of motion the city could save $700,000 by eliminating the rebates, stating "it is undesirable to fund election campaign expenses" and candidates should "solicit financial support from donors based on the strength of their platform rather than relying on taxpayer funds."

In a statement, Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) said while he too would like to eliminate the rebates, doing so would favour incumbent candidates if other advantages are not removed as well.

Browaty noted election campaign surpluses from prior elections roll over into new campaigns, council salaries are paid throughout the election period and assets such as election signs can be reused.

The councillor suggested allowing candidates more time to raise money.

"During a short campaign period, a candidate's focus needs to be connecting with voters about the issues," Browaty said in his statement.

"As we make it harder to raise money, we should consider increasing the length of time people are allowed to raise funds and form campaign organizations to give challengers a fighting chance."

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