Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith (right) is being called on to resign by former mayor Steve Price after McNeil-Smith violated election expense limits. (Black Press File).

Sidney mayor called on to resign

Cliff McNeil-Smith exceeded campaign spending limit

Steve Price, the former mayor of Sidney, is calling on this successor, Cliff McNeil-Smith, to resign after he violated campaign spending limits.

“He [McNeil-Smith] is an honourable person,” said Price. “But he broke the campaign rules, and he needs to resign.”

Price’s demand for McNeil-Smith’s resignation rests on provisions in the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA). It states that an “elected candidate who exceeds their expense limit loses their seat.”

McNeil-Smith said he will remain in office until a court has heard his case. While McNeil-Smith acknowledged that this hearing could end up costing him his office, he expressed confidence.

“We believe that we can make a good case in our court application,” said McNeil-Smith.

This back-and-forth between politicial rivals ensued after McNeil-Smith told Elections B.C. that his winning mayoral campaign exceeded the mayoral spending limit by $1,877 in his total spending of $11,349.

McNeil-Smith won Sidney’s mayoral race on Oct. 20, 2018 in a landslide, with 3,740 votes to Price’s 929 votes.

RELATED: McNeil-Smith ousts incumbent for Sidney mayor’s seat

Last year’s local elections were the first time candidates, elector organizations and third-party advertising sponsors had to follow expense limits.

McNeil-Smith said his campaign accepts responsibility for the mistake, adding that his campaign will voluntarily pay the necessary fine, which amounts to twice the amount by which he exceeded the limit.

“It was an unintentional mistake,” he said.

McNeil-Smith also has imminent plans to seek legal relief. A court could hear his case in as early as two weeks, he said.

“Candidates or financial agents can apply to the Supreme Court for a court order for relief from disclosure requirements and expense limit penalties,” the LECFA reads.

A court may provide relief “only if satisfied that exceeding the expense limit did not materially affect the result of the election” and that candidate “exercised due diligence” to ensure spending limits are not exceeded.

McNeil-Smith said his application will be able to prove that the excessive spending did not materially affect the outcome.

Price insists that Elections B.C. must enforce the rule regardless of the circumstances. “It’s quite black and white,” he said. Future candidates would otherwise deliberately exceed spending limits, then seek relief, he said.

Price said the rules are unambiguous. “We were told at the start of the campaign that there is no room for error,” said Price, adding he deliberately spent several hundred dollars less than what the limit would have permitted.

Rebecca Penz, communications director with Elections B.C., said it would be up to the Supreme Court of B.C. — not Elections B.C. — to determine whether the excessive spending “materially affected” the outcome and whether McNeill-Smith showed “due diligence.”

RELATED: Tanner’s Books owner is running for Sidney mayor

Of some interest is the nature of the disclosure. Price said he found out about the violation after McNeil-Smith had publicly disclosed it. Candidates had until Jan. 18, 2019 to submit final disclosures.

Penz said Elections B.C. is currently preparing the disclosure statements and contribution data for publication, leaving open the possibility that Elections B.C. might find additional irregularities or not.

“These will be posted online in early February, and a media advisory will notify media that they are available,” she said. “At this time, I can provide you with general information about the rules but not speak to any specific situations.”

McNeil-Smith’s disclosure threatens to leave Sidney in a state of uncertainty, but the mayor said he will be able to govern until the court has rendered its ruling.

RELATED: North Saanich councillor resigns one month after election

For Price, the situation appears clear. McNeill-Smith should not wait until a judge could end up removing him from office. Rather, he should resign to set the stage for a “fair” election, said Price.

So would Price, who served one term as mayor before losing in October 2018, run in such an election? He did not commit one way or another, but added that he does have more time these days.

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

VIDEO: Saanich resident shocked when trespasser licks security camera, rummages through mail

‘I found the situation really bizarre,’ said the Gordon Head resident

BC Ferries crew member taken to hospital after getting struck by bow doors

Two sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay were cancelled

Bulk or boxed candy? Trick-or-treat maps help Canadian families prepare for Halloween

Census Mapper uses 2016 census data to predict busiest neighbourhoods

Black Press Media celebrates women who are making a difference

Helping others is the cornerstone of the work Shannon Drew does in… Continue reading

Goldstream Food Bank on the search to fill Christmas Hampers with toys

Volunteers are looking for new toys for infants to 11-year-olds

VIDEO: Explosion, fire sends woman running from Saanich home

Heavy smoke in the area, crews on scene

Jack’s Devils beat Quinn’s Canucks 1-0 in NHL brother battle

New Jersey youngster scores first career goal against Vancouver

Two charged after owner’s wild ride through Kamloops in his stolen truck

Crystal Rae Dorrington, 37, and Derrick Ronald Pearson, 32, facing multiple charges

Judge orders credit union’s bank records for Kelowna social worker facing theft allegations

The man is accused of negligence, breach of contract, fraud and a conspiracy with Interior Savings

Leaders pour it on with rallies, boosts for candidates as campaign reaches peak

The federal election campaign has reached a crescendo

Allegations of racism lead to ministry investigation at Vancouver private school

St. George’s School was contacted over what the school describes as ‘deeply offensive behaviour online’

Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta

Edmonton police estimated the size of the crowd at about 4,000

Zantac, the over-the-counter heartburn drug, pulled in Canada, U.S.

Health Canada also investigates possible carcinogen in some ranitidine drugs

B.C. public safety minister says cannabis edibles not in stores til January

Mike Farnworth says he wants regional issues considered when it comes to licensing

Most Read