New provincial legislation will strengthen local election finance rules

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New provincial legislation will bring local election campaign financing regulations closer to provincial rules and will modernize and strengthen tools available to investigate and enforce them.

The changes will include establishing a pre-campaign period to increase the length of time election advertising is regulated from 29 days to 89 days. The legislation will also limit sponsorship contributions to $1,200 to match provincial limits.

“In 2017, one of the government’s first initiatives was landmark legislation to put an end to big money in politics. We are continuing our work to make sure people are at the heart of decision-making,” said Josie Osborne, minister of municipal affairs. “The changes we are proposing reflect the feedback we heard coming out of the 2018 local government elections and they will make elections at the local government level more transparent and equitable for everyone.”

Changes also include requiring elector organizations to register with Elections BC and complete annual financial reports. Electoral organizations will be banned from accepting non-campaign contributions to pay for operational expenses in non-election years. This means they will have to fund all expenses through campaign contributions.

Elections BC will have access to new investigative tools and additional penalties to fine people who do not comply with the new rules.

“These changes strengthen the rules governing local government election finance by increasing transparency,” said Brian Frenkel, president, Unions of BC Municipalities (UBCM). “Local governments endorsed a call for these changes in 2020 and we appreciate the government’s response well in advance of the next local government general election.”

Changes will apply to all local elections starting with the 2022 general local elections and any byelections after. Any byelections already underway or scheduled before 2022 are not affected.

The new rules relating to sponsorship contribution limits will be made retroactively, effective from March 4, 2021, to prevent banned sponsorship contributions from being made between the time legislation is introduced and royal assent, the province said.

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