Sudbury mayor's race came with biggest price tag

The 2014 Sudbury mayor's election was the most expensive race in the city's history.

Most candidates went into to their own pocket to pay for the campaign

Brian Bigger spent $54,829 on his successful bid to be mayor of Greater Sudbury, about half as much as the second place finisher Dan Melanson. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

A provincial election, a municipal election, then two byelections and finally a federal election this fall. You couldn't blame Sudbury for having voter fatigue. We reached David Tabachnick, political science professor at Nipissing U. to sort it all out.
The 2014 Sudbury mayor's election was the most expensive race in the city's history.

The votes were counted months ago, but the financial tally for the hotly contested campaign wasn't known until now.

John Rodriguez was the last to file his expense report showing he spent $97,000 trying to re-capture the mayor's office.
John Rodriguez speaks during a news conference last year in which he officially announced he would run for mayor. He lost the mayor's seat to Marianne Matichuk in Sudbury's 2010 election, and came in third in the city's 2014 election. (Erik White/CBC)

He got a court-ordered extension on filing and then held a fundraising roast last month to help settle his campaign debts. In his remarks at the event, he warned about the increasing power of dollars over democracy.

"We only have to look to our southern neighbours to see how governments are bought and sold."

This Sudbury mayor's race came with the biggest price tag in history — with more than a $250,000 spent on lawn signs, internet ads and everything in between.

And that's without the bills from two of the most active candidates: Richard Majkot and Ron Dupuis. They have both refused to file and are now banned from running in 2018.

Skewing democracy?

While thousands of dollars were raised, most candidates went into to their own pocket to pay for the campaign.

Brock University political scientist David Siegel said both ways of covering costs lead to serious questions about local democracy.

"Either you become beholden to people who give you money or, maybe what it means, the field [may become] closed to anybody who is not personally wealthy."

Siegel noted the city of Toronto has banned campaign contributions from unions and corporations as a way to level the playing field.

"The strength of local government is that anybody can run — except, if we make it so expensive, then we are putting barriers there."

But you can't say money is everything.

Mayor Brian Bigger spent half as much on his victory as his nearest competitors.


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