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Delta elections could see big changes under proposed election finance reforms

Delta’s upcoming municipal election could see some changes thanks to new legislation that will ban corporate and union donations for local elections.

The proposed amendments to the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, announced on Oct. 30, would not only ban “big money,” as Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson called it, but would also apply a cap on donations for individuals: $1,200 per individual per year.

This $1,200 limit is for all candidates endorsed by an elector organization, such as Delta Connect or the Delta Independent Voters Association, or each independently running candidate. For example, an individual wouldn’t be able to donate $1,200 to each of four candidates who were endorsed by Delta Connect. However, they could give $1,200 to Delta Connect, and an additional $1,200 to an independent candidate.

The possible change would apply to all local elections starting with the 2018 general local elections and any by-elections thereafter, including campaigns for councillors, mayors, electoral area directors and school trustees.

In Delta, this would mean some significant change in the makeup of campaign contributions.

The 2014 general election saw $317,986.09 in campaign contributions in Delta. Of those, 38 per cent were corporate donors; they contributed 58 per cent of donations for all candidates and elector organizations.

Although nearly half the contributors were individuals whose donations would fall within the new regulation amount, their contributions made up less than 13 per cent of the total donation value.

The median donation was $500. However, the average contribution came out to just over $1,000, thanks in part to the 19 contributors who gave more than $5,000. Those contributors were responsible for 37.7 per cent of donations, with a grand total of $119,970.40.

Of those 19 contributors, 15 were corporations, three were individuals and one was a union. They contributed primarily to the Delta Independent Voters Association, which consequently had the highest total amount for campaign donations.

The Delta Independent Voters Association slate included Mayor Lois Jackson, who ran unopposed, and council candidates Robert Campbell, Ian Paton and Rod Binder. The Delta Connect council slate included Lori Mayhew, Nicholas Wong, Jennifer Thoss, Johann Ackermann and Peter van der Velden (although he did not ultimately run), while the Independents Working For You council candidates included Bruce McDonald and Jeannie Kanakos.

Sylvia Bishop, Heather King, Ron Calliou and Peter Mattoo ran for council independently.

For Sylvia Bishop, who plans to run again in the 2018 election, the change would be mean “candidates will have to work harder to secure donations to meet the average campaign cost,” she said.

“We’re a huge community, separated by farmland and bog,” she said. “In order to reach residents in North Delta and in South Delta requires, I believe, more effort than, say, more dense, urban areas.”

But, Bishop said, it’s possible to do within the legislation limits. Just over a quarter of Bishop’s campaign contributions were from individuals within the new limit — the highest total amount for any candidate and the second highest percentage.

“You simply have to ask everyone you know, everyone you support by way of your doctor, your dentist, your dry cleaner, your hairdresser,” she said. “You have ask everyone you know to consider making a donation to support you.”

“In that regard, we’re all going to be treated the same now,” she continued. “It’s the same challenges we all have to face in securing donations.”

The legislation is currently at the committee stage, and needs a third reading and then royal assent from the lieutenant-governor before it can be made law.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Peter van der Velden ran as an independent candidate. That error has been corrected.



grace.kennedy@northdeltareporter.com

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