No Limits: Vancouver Outspends Toronto

With almost $5 million spent on the 2008 civic election, Vancouver has set a new Canadian record for campaign spending. The city`s four successful civic parties filed their campaign finance disclosures with city hall on March 16 revealing how much they spent and who funded last fall's election.

In 2005, the three victorious parties spent a combined $10.95 per eligible voter. For the 2008 contest, spending shot up by 11 per cent, hitting $12.29 per eligible voter.

 

 Party 2008 Election Spending 2008 Spending Per Voter
 Vision $2,502,566.38  $6.20
 NPA $2,101,228.92  $5.21
 COPE $346,730.48  $0.86
 Green $8,773.72  $0.02
 Total $4,959,299.50  $12.29

 

And that's just what is officially disclosed. The final figures reported to the city clerk's office do not include the unreported nomination spending by the Non-Partisan Association's Sam Sullivan or Vision Vancouver's Allan De Genova. The spending by these two failed candidates is estimated to range anywhere from an additional $400,000 to $800,000, easily boosting civic election spending over $14 per voter.

In other provinces, spending and campaign contribution limits are a long-established practice at the municipal level. Strict campaign finance limits for civic elections have been in a place for over a decade in Ontario, making campaigns in the major cities – Toronto, Ottawa and Mississauga – far more equitable than what we experience here.

A Toronto mayoral candidate can spend $7,500 and $0.70 per elector, while councillors and school board trustees are limited to $5,000 plus $0.70 per elector. Donations to council candidates are capped at $750 from an individual, corporation or union. Mayoral candidates have a higher contribution limit of $2,500.

Vancouver elections are much more expensive on a per capita basis than similar elections in Toronto. There campaign spending is strictly regulated and the parties spent an average of $5.13 trying to win over each voter. In contrast, parties here in the "Wild West" face no campaign spending limits, and during the last Vancouver civic election they spent an average of $12.29 per voter – a new Canadian record for campaign spending.

 

City
Toronto 
 Vancouver
 Election year  2006  2008
 Number of eligible voters  1,437,335  403,663
 Election spending limit  $7,366,807.00*  $4,959,299.50**
 Number of candidates  168***  54
 Spending per voter  $5.13  $12.29









*based on maximum spending limits in 2006 Toronto election campaign
**Vancouver has no spending limit so we've used the total election spending figures reported publicly
***assumes a two-person competitive race for mayor and in all wards for Toronto city council and school board positions


Not surprisingly, Vancouver's two leading parties, Mayor Robertson's Vision Vancouver and the Non-Partisan Association, have called once again for tighter regulations on campaign financing, putting the onus on the province. In the upcoming provincial election, Think City will be seeking answers from Gordon Campbell's BC Liberals and Carole James' BC New Democratic Party as part of a survey of the major parties and the candidates running for the 11 Vancouver seats.

Correction: Think City incorrectly reported that Calgary and Edmonton have limits on campaign spending and contributions in the March 12 edition of the Think City Minute. Like BC, Alberta has no rules governing municipal campaign financing.

However, civic voters in that province may see debate later this spring on a private member's bill that would partially reform election contribution rules. The bill is receiving widespread support and recently won the backing of Alberta's Minister of Municipal Affairs Ray Danyluk.

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