Will Council End Big Money Influence at City Hall?

moneyWhen a motion strengthening the rules governing political donations at the municipal level comes before Vancouver city council this week, Think City will be reminding six city councillors of their 2005 election promise to clean up campaign finances.

The influence of big money on city hall elections was a top concern for a majority of sitting city councillors according to a survey Think City conducted in 2005 of the 96 candidates running for office in Vancouver. Councillors David Cadman, George Chow, Heather Deal, Peter Ladner, Raymond Louie and Tim Stevenson all said they supported campaign spending limits, full disclosure of donations between elections, and limits on donation amounts.

Money spent by the politicians and their financial backers on Vancouver elections tripled between 1996 and 2005, hitting four million dollars in the last municipal contest. Under the Vancouver Charter, candidates and elected officials are not required to disclose donations between elections – that means no one knows how much is being spent, what it is being spent on or who is financing campaigns outside a very narrow election-time window every three years.

In 2004, the Vancouver Electoral Reform Commission called on the city to develop restrictions on campaign contributions and spending during municipal elections. However, in the three years since Thomas Berger released his report nothing has been done by city council to safeguard the integrity of how civic elections are financed in Vancouver.