Campaign Finance Reform

Get Rid of Big Money Influence at ElectionsThink City wants big money influence out of city hall. It's a problem that has been in the making for more than a decade. And it has only gotten worse.

Money spent by civic politicians and their financial backers on Vancouver elections quadrupled between 1996 and 2008, hitting as high as $6.0 million dollars in the last municipal contest.

Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary and Mississauga all have election spending and contribution limits, so why not Canada's eighth largest city?

It isn't because the civic parties don't want change. Since 2002, every city council – Coalition of Progressive Electors, Non-Partisan Association and now Vision Vancouver – committed to reforming campaign financing at the municipal level.

In June 2004, former BC supreme court Justice Thomas Berger and his Vancouver Electoral Reform Commission called for restrictions on campaign contributions and spending during municipal elections, along with 21 other electoral reform measures.

The following March, the COPE-run city council under Mayor Larry Campbell passed a motion asking Victoria to implement many of these recommendations, as the city alone could not amend the Vancouver Charter to bring in the Berger reforms. No action was taken by the provincial government.

Two-plus years later in November 2007, Mayor Sam Sullivan's NPA majority reaffirmed its support for the same electoral financing reform measures put forward by the Campbell council. The province made no changes and the 2008 civic election is contested under the same-old discredited campaign financing rules.

Now Vancouver has its third mayor and governing party since 2002 and the city council position is the same. Mayor Gregor Robertson's Vision party promised in their 2008 election platform to advocate for changes to provincial legislation to establish campaign spending and donation limits.

With tri-partisan support at Vancouver city hall for reforming civic election financing, the ball is now squarely in the province's court. That is why Think City is urging the provincial parties to commit to reforming municipal campaign finances by legislating:

  • restrictions on campaign contributions;
  • restrictions on campaign spending;
  • tax credits for municipal campaign or political contributions;
  • reporting of all contributions, regardless of when the contributions are received; and
  • financial reporting requirements similar to those for federal and provincial parties.