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NDP has some things to fix with civic-election campaign law when this is all over

October 15th, 2018 · No Comments

One of the big issues in this campaign season has been the discovery of holes and glitches in the province’s new campaign-finance law for local elections.

It turns out third parties can spend whatever they want up until 30 days before the election, independent candidates who are a team but don’t register as an official party can accept more in donations than a party, unions can pay staff to campaign among their members without any declaration of spending, and more.

For the last six months, that’s been a dominant theme, starting with this story back in April about the NPA raising money for “operating expenses,” something that was not limited until the NDP decided to amend this bit in June.

Then there was the issue that started to emerge as people realized they were not going to raising anything near the millions that Vision Vancouver and the Non-Partisan Association used to raise, which was the problem of it being hard to get the public interested in the election because of the lack of advertising dollars.

Then there was the intriguing issue of who paid for the billboards all over Vancouver touting Councillor Hector Bremner and his #LetsFixHousing Yes Vancouver party. It turned out the man behind that was developer Peter Wall, as the Globe discovered in late September. (And no one would ever have known if Wall hadn’t gotten his lawyer to provide the information, since there was no legal requirement to report any spending before the official Sept. 22 start of the campaign period.)

Following that, the issue of union efforts and contributions came up, as the Vancouver and District Labour Council decided to dedicate staff and money to promoting their slate of 27, headed by independent mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart.

Our stories, here and here, detailed what the new rules were and made it clear that unions had a leeway to campaign that they wouldn’t get in provincial elections.

There was also the new wrinkle that independents who were tacitly operating together, but not an official party, could raise more than parties.

And then, finally, the whole issue about letting the public know about who donors are to campaigns in advance continued to boil. Although Seattle, for example, requires its candidates to post continuously in advance of elections about who their donors are, B.C. only requires disclosure three months AFTER the election is over.

But there’s been public and media pressure on people to disclose, so first they promised to and then some of them did, which revealed that the NPA still does well in the fundraising department, bringing in almost $850,000 two weeks before the election — a sum that outdid all the independents and parties on the left.

I expect quite the wrassling match over the next four years as provincial types debate how the rules should be changed again, especially once we see the full disclosures next January when voters may very well be asking: Why didn’t we know this before we voted.



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