Local election reforms take big money out of politics

Selina Robinson

CAMPAIGN finance reforms announced on Monday by the British Columbia government will limit the influence of big money on local elections, putting people at the centre of community politics and decisions.

“With this legislation, people can be confident that their local and provincial governments will be working for all voters, not just those able to write the largest cheques,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “Our government has already taken action to get big money out of politics at the provincial level. These amendments will make sure that democracy at the local level works for everyone, not just a select few.”

The legislation would ban corporate and union donations, put limits on individual contributions and ban out-of-province donations at the local level.

Contributions for the election campaign of a candidate or elector organization will be limited to $1,200 per donor per year. One donor’s total contributions to the election campaign for an elector organization and all of its endorsed candidates cannot exceed this amount. These changes follow the approach of the proposed provincial Election Amendment Act.

“B.C. local governments have been asking for a ban on corporate and union donations and a cap on contributions to local election campaigns since 2015,” said Wendy Booth, Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) President. “We reaffirmed this request just last month, and appreciate the commitment demonstrated by Minister Robinson to address this issue. The proposed changes will support fairness during campaigns and make running for office more accessible by strengthening the rules for local elections.”

The proposed amendments to the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act follow consultations with key stakeholders such as Elections BC and UBCM, which represents B.C.’s 189 local governments and the Islands Trust.

“Elected officials have the privilege and responsibility of representing their citizens, and this legislation helps ensure that campaigning for public office is conducted fairly,” said Nils Jensen, Mayor of Oak Bay. “The District of Oak Bay has strongly advocated for local elections campaign financing reform. We appreciate Minister Robinson bringing this forward in such a timely fashion. It’s clearly in the best interest of candidates and the public—and it’s the right thing to do.”

The amendments will apply to all local elections starting with the 2018 general local elections and any byelections thereafter, including campaigns for councillors, mayors, electoral area directors and school trustees.

Once passed, the changes will be retroactive to October 31, 2017, the day after the first reading of the legislation. To allow candidates to transition to the new campaign financing framework, contributions allowed under the former rules and received before October 31, 2017, may be used for the 2018 general local elections.


Quick Facts:

  • An elector organization in local elections is an organization that endorses candidates in a local election. Elector organizations are often referred to as civic political parties.
  • The Local Elections Campaign Financing Act was amended in 2016 to implement expense limits for local elections. These amendments will also come into effect for the 2018 general local elections.