A pronouncement by the BC Liberal government today that they plan to ban corporate and union donations at the provincial level may have a profound impact on New Westminster civic politics. That’s because comments by the Minister responsible has led to speculation that legislation may be in the works which would also severely restrict political donations during the civic election in 2018.
In an exclusive interview with the Hon. Sam Sullivan, Minister of Communities, Sport and Cultural Development, with responsibility for Translink, I had the opportunity to explore this issue in greater detail.
“It is only a matter of time before legislation bringing in provincial electoral finance reform will be brought to cities,” says Sullivan. “There is a perception that this type of fundraising taking place in our electoral processes erodes the public’s confidence in government.”
Sullivan personally believes any kind of reform about to be implemented at the provincial level should also apply at city government as well.
“While my experience with fundraising is that it is done in an ethical and transparent manner, there are clearly those within the community who believe otherwise,” says Sullivan. “My job as Minister is to ensure that the public has full confidence in the system that elects local government.”
Sullivan was asked whether his BC Liberal government intends on introducing legislation that would would ban corporate and union donations in time for the 2018 civic election.
“I can’t comment on what will be included in the upcoming Throne Speech, but what I can say is that my personal belief is that we should move forward on this initiative as soon as possible.”
Asked whether any type of corporate and union donation ban should include in-kind donations, Sullivan was less forthcoming.
“Once again I can’t comment on future legislation, but in my opinion anything that erodes confidence in the election of our civic governments should be on the table for discussion.”
“While my experience with fundraising is that it is done in an ethical and transparent manner, there are clearly those within the community who believe otherwise,” – Hon. Sam Sullivan
If campaign donations are severely restricted, it will surely have a big impact on city politics in New Westminster. That’s because the DLC slate, which swept every seat on council, was heavily supported by the labour unions.
According to the Record Newspaper Mayor Jonathan Cote who “was endorsed by the New Westminster and District Labour Council, received $16,733 in contributions from trade unions – more than many council candidates spent on their entire campaigns.”
The Record goes on to state “Cote also partnered with city council and school board candidates who were endorsed by the New Westminster and District Labour Council on some expenses. The group shared election expenses for a number of things including telephone canvassing ($4,562 for the group), a large poster, a leaflet, poll card brochures and a mailout, a group photo, a newspaper wrap and a poll card in the Punjabi language.”
While the DLC Caucus received significant financial contributions for their campaigns, they also secured a number of in-kind donations. This includes a lot of organizational and volunteer support to help run phone banks and other key operational activities which helped them take every seat on council.
If provincial legislation is introduced which would ban “in-kind” donations from labour unions, this would have a huge impact on the DLC caucus in the next civic election. Only time will tell as to whether these types of restrictions are put in place and whether they will cover both cash and in-kind contributions.
Needless to say, any kind of campaign contribution restrictions is sure to have an impact on the 2018 civic elections throughout Metro Vancouver.