Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's election reform meant to level playing field for new candidates: councillor

In next year's municipal election, donations from unions and corporations will be capped at 50 per cent of total contributions.

Corporate, union donations will be cut next year, phased out entirely by 2025

St. John's city council on Monday approved changes for union and corporate decisions to municipal candidates. The donations will be phased out by 2025. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

A St. John's city councillor says the city is phasing out corporate and union donations by 2025 to level the playing field for new potential candidates.

Coun. Ian Froude said Wednesday that new candidates might not have the same connections or wealth needed to run an effective campaign as others.

"I think we have seen in elections of past at all levels that we need greater diversity in our politics to make sure those that sit in the chamber or the House of Assembly or the House of Commons are representative of the people that they represent," Froude told The St. John's Morning Show.

Beginning with the 2021 municipal election, donations from unions and corporations will be capped at 50 per cent of total contributions. The amount candidates can receive from these groups has been cut from $2,000 to $1,000, and donations can now be made only in the year of an election.

There are also changes to how much a candidate can spend on a campaign, along with new rules for donation transparency.

Donations by unions and corporations will be prohibited entirely by 2025. Council approved the changes by a vote of 10-1 on Monday, with Coun. Sandy Hickman voting against the amendments.

Coun. Ian Froude says the changes will help level the playing field for new candidates hoping to run in St. John's. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Changes to election finances have been in the council chamber since February, when recommendations made by the Citizens' Assembly for Stronger Elections were accepted by council. Froude, who has spoken about the issue since before his election in 2017, said the successful vote was "really satisfying."

"It's been four years I've been talking about this, and we're really pleased to have the CASE NL report contribute to the conversation and really provide an impetus for these conversations as well," he said.

When asked why union and corporate donations weren't wiped out entirely for the 2021 municipal election, Froude said incumbent councillors didn't want to appear to be "manipulating the rules" to their own advantage ahead of next year's vote.

"Right now it's October," he said. "It's only a year away from the next election, so we didn't want to too substantially change the rules of the game prior to an election coming up."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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