The last civic election in Richmond saw $1 million in combined spending by political candidates.
Thankfully, the new provincial government is passing legislation to cap both donations and spending limits in municipal campaigns, and ban donations from corporations and unions.
Persons with special interests will no longer be able to dump unlimited funds into the campaign coffers of candidates for mayor or councillor.
At Monday’s city council meeting, council resolved to send a letter to the provincial government for clarification on a number of items in the new legislation.
However, this letter also included reference to the unfairness of how the new rules treat independent versus slate candidates. The new rules state that an independent candidate can receive $1,200 per year from a donor, and a slate of candidates can receive $1,200 per year (not each person on the slate).
No, I do not believe that a person should be able to donate the maximum $1,200 per year to each person on a slate of candidates.
For a hypothetical slate of eight candidates, that would be $9,600 per year, and $38,400 per four year election cycle.
This is a significant sum of money that I argue would unduly influence the political process, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid. One councillor likened the restriction of donations to hurting the political process. For whom, we wonder?
Lastly, the letter council is sending includes an ask for tax refunds on municipal political donations, as is done at the provincial and federal levels of government.
In the last civic election, $1 million was spent. So a lack of tax refunds has clearly not hurt the ability to fundraise and spend on campaigns.
If tax refunds were issued on donations, that is a huge cost to the taxpayer, and for what benefit? Municipal campaigns roll on without them, so what purpose does redistributing tax revenue to donors serve?
I suspect we’ll discover that answer as the civic campaign machinery gears up.