Saanich North and the Islands MLA to review election expenses

The NDP's Gary Holman part of provincial special committee exploring local election expense limits.

MLA Gary Holman is one of eight legislators on a special committee touring the province, asking people their opinions on local election expense limits.

The committee is holding public hearings today (Nov. 26) in Victoria, and on Nov. 29 in Surrey. The deadline for written submissions is Friday, Dec. 5, 2014.

Holman, who’s the B.C. NDP’s critic for democratic reform, says the committee’s work will be handed over to the Legislature after they meet with elector organizations, election candidates, the public and other stakeholders.

“We are working on recommendations on limited spending and expenses during local elections,” he said, adding donations to candidates and elector organization will be looked at as well.

“It’s not necessarily a big issue in smaller communities,”Holman continued, “but issues do arise and they could still have a disproportionate effect.”

Holman pointed to the case of a lower mainland-area developer that donated around $960,000 to one of Vancouver’s elector organizations.

“We’ve had (expense limits) provincially and federally for years,” he said. “For whatever reason, the rules for local government are lagging behind.”

B.C.’s Minister for Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Coralee Oakes, announced Nov. 17 that the province will examine how campaign spending should be regulated.

Oakes promised there will be new rules on spending and donations from property developers, unions and other donors to municipal council and school board candidates by the next province-wide municipal vote in 2018.

The NDP last week also introduced democratic reform legislation that included a proposed bill called Fairness in Financing Local Government Elections. Holman said the legislation would bring local governments into the 21st century.

“It’s a framework,” he said. “It was a position taken by the NDP in the 2013 (provincial election) campaign.”

Holman said it would deal not only with spending by candidates, but the donations they receive as well.

At the same time, Holman and the NDP introduced two other pieces of proposed legislation, an Electronic Petitions Act and a Whistleblowers Protection Act. The latter, he said, arose out of the Mount Polley mine tailing spill issue.

Holman admitted the NDP-sponsored legislation will probably not go far in a B.C. Liberal Party-dominated Legislature.. Yet, he said he hopes they will spark discussion both in Victoria and on the street.

Written submissions can be made by Dec. 5, 2014 to the special committee by visiting https://www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/leel.