NEWS: Survey Reveals Top Reforms

Time to Cleanup Local ElectionsBy Think City Staff

British Columbians have spoken loud and clear to demand campaign finance reform at the municipal level according to a Think City survey of almost 3,700 citizens conducted online from Feb. 22 to April 12.

In the 2008 elections, municipalities across the province were plagued by numerous cases of electoral violations, unethical conduct and maladministration. Some of these cases resulted in police investigations, inquiries and legal challenges.

"Public confidence in the systems used to elect local governments in British Columbia was shaken,” said Think City chair Neil Monckton. “Municipal politics is the lawless ‘wild west’ of Canadian politics and tough rules on campaign finance reform is the most important change we can make to restore public confidence in our democratic institutions.”

Think City’s 2010 Civic Electoral Reform Survey showed overwhelming support for initiatives to take big money out of local politics. 95.5 per cent of people said they supported campaign spending limits, 96.8 per cent said they wanted disclosure of donations given between campaign periods, and 93.3 per cent favoured limits on campaign contributions. A majority of 62.6 per cent supported restricting contributions to individuals as a way of limiting the influence of corporations, unions, and other large organizations.

Monckton also noted that there was little support for extending the franchise. Think City tested public support for various options including: compulsory voting (51.7 per cent opposed), lowering the voting age to 16 (61.1 per cent opposed), allowing resident non-citizens to vote (59.4 per cent opposed), allowing commercial property owners to vote (80.1 per cent opposed), and allowing business owners to vote (76.7 per cent opposed). None of these ideas were supported in the Think City survey.

Think City’s survey results also indicate a strong preference among voters for electing individual candidates (79.9 per cent) rather than voting for party lists or slates, strong support for allowing municipalities to use other electoral systems such as wards (73.4 per cent), a clear desire for direct election of representatives to regional boards such as TransLink and Metro Vancouver (71.6 per cent), and majority support for keeping the three-year term of office (62.9 per cent).

While a majority of survey respondents believe women are underrepresented, they opposed bringing in rules that would require parties to field gender balanced slates (61.2 per cent opposed). Multilingual ballots were supported by a majority of people (69.3 per cent) as a means of supporting participation by voters who struggle with English.

"The message we heard from the public was clear – the vast majority want to clean up municipal politics with tighter rules on campaign financing,” said Monckton. “We want Minister Bennett and the BC Liberal government to follow through on Gordon Campbell’s promise to run the most open, transparent and accountable government in Canada.”

To read Think City’s full submission to the provincial local government elections task force, click here.

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