Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and Surrey First city councillors. (Photo: Now-Leader).

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and Surrey First city councillors. (Photo: Now-Leader).

Surrey Mayor says proposed campaign donation limits seem ‘reasonable’

NDP says campaign finance reforms “putting people at the centre of community politics and decisions.”

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says it seems “reasonable” for campaign donations to be limited to $1,200 per donor, per year, as the provincial NDP government rolls out its plan to limit “the influence of big money on local elections.”

A government bulletin published Monday revealed campaign finance reforms aimed at “putting people at the centre of community politics and decisions.”

Selina Robinson, minister of municipal affairs and housing, said amendments introduced under Bill 3-2017: Election Amendment Act, 2017, “will make sure that democracy at the local level works for everyone, not just a select few.”

The amendments, once passed, would ban union and corporate donations to local candidates, elector organizations, third-party advertisers and assent voting advertisers, as well as set limits on individual contributions and ban at the civic level out of province donations.

As for the $1,200 limit per donor, per year, that figure embraces one donor’s total contribution to the election campaign for an elector groups and all its endorsed candidates.

Hepner plans to reprise her run for office in Surrey’s next civic election. These amendments will apply to the October 2018 general local elections, and beyond, and apply to school trustee candidates as well.

“I haven’t had a real good chance to see the entirety of them, but I can tell you that I know that there’s been a significant call both at the Union of British Columbia Municipalites level, and at various levels, for reform,” Hepner said Wednesday of the amendments.

Wendy Booth, president of the UBCM, said the proposed changes “will support fairness during campaigns and make running for office more accessible by strengthening the rules for local elections.”

Hepner told the Now-Leader that “these changes may make a difference, I’m not sure. I don’t have any problem with the ceiling – it seems reasonable.”

READ ALSO: Surrey First spent nearly $1.2M on election campaign

But for her, the jury’s still out on whether that should apply for a single candidate, or must be divvied up among a group of independent candidates, which would seem “odd.”

“I need some clarity of what that means. Can they give an individual candidate money to a particular limit, and then you can pool your money? Or does it mean that you are excluded from that ability to pool resources altogether?”

“We’re still digesting it,” Hepner said, adding she thinks the government is “responding to some significant donor contributions in Vancouver particularly, and that wild west of when you contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that’s not been the case here.”

During Surrey’s 2014 civic election campaign Hepner’s slate, Surrey First, spent nearly $1.2 million, mostly from corporate donors. This was contained in campaign disclosure statements.

Her mayoral rival Barinder Rasode’s One Surrey Coalition spent about $313,000 and the Safe Surrey slate, led by Doug McCallum, spent roughly $92,000.