The B.C. government is forcing municipal politicians who run on on civic slates to provide more financial information about their party.
New legislation introduced Wednesday would require elector organizations to adhere to many of the same rules as provincial political parties, including registration with Elections B.C. and annual public financial disclosure.
The changes would dramatically increase transparency in municipalities like the City of Victoria, where the elector organization Together Victoria has two elected members on council. The use of slates — once mainly a Vancouver phenomenon — has been on the rise in the Capital Region in recent years, including former Saanich mayor Richard Atwell’s United for Saanich elector organization in 2018.
“These amendments will bring into more alignment local elections and the provincial election act,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne.
Civic parties will also be forbidden from taking money from unions and corporations to run their operations or pay their staff, including in-kind contributions (an organization lending staff but paying their salary). Union and corporation donations were banned in the last provincial and municipal elections as well.
The legislation would also change how advertising is handled for local elections, by setting a 60-day pre-campaign period, prior to the actual 29-day campaign. This would mean any person, or civic slate, advertising during that 89-day window would have to disclose who they are and who they represent.
To back that up, the government bill proposes to give Elections B.C. new powers to subpoena bank records and records from social media companies like Google and Facebook to see who is behind advertising campaigns if they aren’t identified.
The bill also proposes a $1,200 cap on third-party advertising, to align it with the $1,200 cap on donations.
The changes were asked for by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, which on Wednesday endorsed the bill.
However, the government stopped short of real-time donation disclosure for individual elected municipal politicians, which the UBCM had also suggested.
Individually-elected politicians, who don’t sit on a slate, will not be required to disclose any financial information annually like elector organizations will be required to do.
If passed, the changes would come into effect in the next municipal election, scheduled for October 2022.