Local election campaign spending limits endorsed

All-party committee recommends limits on local election spending based on population

As part of a set of electoral reforms which included extending local election terms to four years, an all-party Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits recently released its unanimous report on local elections campaign spending limits.

In jurisdictions with a population of less than 10,000, the committee recommends expense limits of $10,000 for mayoral candidates and $5,000 for all other candidates including councillor, school trustee, electoral area directors, and Islands Trust representatives.

In jurisdictions with a population 10,000 or more, the committee recommends a per capita formula to reflect that the size of the community significantly affects a candidate’s campaign costs. In these communities, mayoral candidates would be limited to $1 per capita for the first 15,000 people, eventually dropping to only 15 cents per capita for communities with a population greater than 200,000.

The committee recommends that the spending limits apply to candidates beginning January 1 in the calendar year of local elections. It also recommends that third-party party advertisers be limited to 5% of what the mayoral candidate in a given jurisdiction is allowed to spend.

“We heard from the public that running for local government must be accessible and affordable. Our recommendations allow reasonable spending, while promoting fair and accessible local elections,” said committee chair Jackie Tegart, MLA for Fraser-Nicola.

“The committee unanimously agreed to recommend flexible expense limits which recognize the different needs of smaller and larger communities as well as the differences between mayoral candidates and candidates for other locally elected offices,” added deputy chair Selina Robinson.

Several other provinces already have spending limits for some or all parts of local elections in place. The B.C. proposal has not yet gone before the legislature, but all members of the Special Committee, both Liberal and NDP, were unanimous in their endorsement of the proposed spending limits.

Barbara Roden

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