Election spending limits needed, says Holman

Lack of spending limits could disadvantage some, says MLA

While he agrees there are some good changes contained within the provincial government’s latest local elections legislation, Gary Holman has strong reservations about its lack of spending limits.

The NDP MLA for Saanich North and the Islands says the B.C. Liberals’ proposed legislation increases accountability for reporting election expenses by both candidates and donors — but fails to put any limits on spending.

“There are no limits,” Holman said, “unlike the limits at the provincial and federal levels of government.”

He said that a lack of controls on election spending could put running for municipal office out of the reach of the non-wealthy.

“It ups the ante in terms of resources one might need to compete.”

Holman cited an example out of Vancouver, where a noted developer and party fundraiser contributed around $960,000 to the NPA in the 2011 mayoral race. That race saw the NPA’s Suzanne Anton (who is now the provincial justice minister and attorney general) running for mayor, unsuccessfully, against Gregor Robertson.

Holman said that’s an extreme example, yet it raises questions around the influence of such donors on candidates and their policies if they are elected. He did agree, however, that there are examples in local politics where excessive spending did not end in victory — such as the recent pipeline referendum in Kitimat that saw the project proponent spend a lot of money to convince people to vote ‘yes’. The ‘no’ side won. Another example is the long-serving mayor of Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island, Teunis Westbroek who regained his seat while spending $535 on his campaign in 2011 — significantly less than the lone challenger who spent $3,490.

Even so, Holman said without spending limits municipal government remains susceptible to influence by campaign donors.

“With a municipality’s control over such things as land zoning, decisions made can make a millionaire out of a landowner overnight.”

Holman admitted with the Liberals’ majority in Victoria, making a dent on the debate over this legislation will be difficult. While he said the legislation is, overall, an improvement, there are aspects that need changing.

“Our party has proposed amendments to (the legislation), but none have been accepted at this point. That seems to be the trend.”

In announcing the election rule changes earlier in April, Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes noted that campaign spending limits won’t be imposed until after the Nov. 15, 2014 local elections.

The legislation calls for:

• Elections BC to run municipal and school board elections

• Candidates to report donations of $50 or more

• Extending the term of office for three years to four

• The registration of third party advertisers before the promotion of candidates

• Financial disclosures to be filed within 90 days of the vote

• Moving the election date into October (for the 2018 election).

Holman throws in with John Horgan

Saanich North and the Islands MLA Gary Holman is backing John Horgan’s leadership bid within the New Democratic Party of B.C.

Holman, along with Island MLAs Rom Fleming, Lana Popham and Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin, announced their support April 17. Horgan, the MLA for Juan De Fuca, became the only one in the race to replace NDP leader Adrian Dix after Mike Farnsworth backed out earlier this month to also support Horgan.

Speaking with the News Review prior to the APril 17 announcement, Holman said both Horgan and Farnsworth are very experienced leaders in the party, both with upsides. However, since Horgan has become the only one in the leadership race, Holman said he supports his fellow Island MLA.

“I think (Horgan) connects with people really well.”

The NDP leadership race deadline is May 1. Holman said it’s unlikely at this stage that anyone else will step forward to challenge Horgan.