It may take a bite out of their coffers in next year’s municipal elections, but Saanich council seems to be solidly behind the provincial government’s move to limit spending in municipal campaigns.
New legislation introduced last week will prohibit corporate and union donations to individual candidates and slates, while limiting individual donations to $1,200 per person per year.
While the local politicians may have some questions for their provincial counterparts on the new legislation, many would like to see the measures go even further. Coun. Judy Brownoff suggested revising rules to limit election expenses to the number of eligible voters instead of the overall population.
“With these high campaign expenses allowed, you are removing opportunity for average citizens to run,” she said.
Mayor Richard Atwell backs the legislation, but points out name recognition provides incumbents with an unfair advantage.
“If the goal is to keep democracy vibrant, then we need to look to term limits and other restrictions on influence to further level the playing field,” he said.
There’s no shortage of ideas to improve our democratic process, but changes to the financing rules for municipal elections will go a long way to establish the perception of fairness in the electoral system. And in politics, perception can be every bit as important as facts.
And no matter how pure in motive a politician may be, no matter how much they believe they are pursuing the best interests of the average taxpayer, any significant contribution to their election campaign would put those motives in question. To continue to permit large-scale donations in local politics is an open invitation for accusations, regardless of how grounded they are in reality.
This new legislation does not spell the end of the need for electoral reform, but it will help to improve the transparency of the process, and that in itself is a victory for democracy.