A number of people have approached me of late to ask what it would take to win a seat on the New Westminster School Board. Some ask how many hours they need to set aside each week if they were elected. Almost all have inquired as to how much money they would need to raise in order to mount a campaign against the District Labour Council (DLC)/NDP endorsed slate a.k.a. “the machine”.
I decided to look back at the campaign disclosure forms of four candidates to give me a better sense of what people might be up against. Two of those school trustee candidates were endorsed by the DLC, while two were not.
I’ve previously written about Michael Ewen noting he has served an incredible 38 years as an elected school trustee. Apparently he is planning on running again, and if elected will have served 42 years as a public official. No doubt this likely sets some sort of record among Commonwealth nations. But I digress…
So how much did Ewen raise and where did the money come from? In total, he raised $6469.84 in funds to pay for his campaign. According to his Elections BC disclosure, he raised a paltry $583.50 from individuals [$246 of which he personally contributed], $500 from corporations [all came from Agentic who gave to most of the DLC/NDP candidates] and an eye-popping $5386.34 from trade unions.
That’s right…83% of Ewen’s campaign was funded by trade unions.
A similar story emerges when you look at Ewen’s DLC colleague James Janzen. He raised a total of $7341.84 – of which only $295 came from individuals, $500 from corporations [Agentic] and a whopping $6634.84 came from trade unions.
Janzen collected even a greater portion of his campaign funds from organized labour compared to Ewen. 90% of his campaign funds came directly from unions. This certainly gives new meaning to running a community-based “grassroots campaign.”
Now let’s have a look at independent Casey Cook who is serving his third term as school trustee. If you look at his disclosure forms it reveals he chose to self-finance his entire campaign [something that is now banned with the introduction of Bill 15]. He spent a total of $2328.92 – of which a portion was $400 for the reuse of some old campaign signs. He accepted no corporate or union contributions.
Finally, former school trustee MaryAnn Mortensen [she resigned mid-term] raised a total of $2316.09. She gets the gold medal for running a grassroots campaign as she declared 39 contributors gave her campaign less than $100. Mortensen also contributed $841 from her own funds to help her secure victory and accepted no union or corporate donations.
The recent passage of Bill 15, legislation which bans financial and in-kind campaign donations from corporations and unions will have a huge impact on our upcoming civic election. This is especially true when you juxtapose it against previous legislation which now sets strict limits on expenditures and imposes a new $1200 per year cap on contributions from any single person – including the candidate.
From what you can see above, it really has been a tale of two campaigns over the last while. However, some civic politicians are about to learn that the rules of the fundraising game have significantly changed – and this may serve to level the playing field – at least somewhat. I guess we’ll all find out what transpires in about 8 months from now!
PS The opinions posted on this blog are my own – full stop!