January 14, 2019

Campaign Finance Reform & Our Little Dark Money Problem — with John Whistler of VanGreens

In recent years, critics have accused both Liberal and NDP cabinets of rushing through inadequate electoral reforms via BC’s Local Election Campaign Financing Act, or LECFA. The most recent round of changes took effect last April, impacting the 2018 municipal elections across the province.

What were they all about? Are BC municipalities in-line with campaign financing limits and disclosure requirements at the provincial and federal levels? What is “the dark money”, and why is that still a thing in local politics?

John Whistler, financial agent for the Green Party of Vancouver, joins Gord in the studio to dig into the details of the recent changes — how they impacted candidates and voters last fall, and additional changes he’d like to see in how election campaigns are conducted in British Columbia.

Want more? In October, Gord published John’s 5-part series on “Failure and Reform: BC’s Local Elections Campaign Financing Act” — simply search for ‘LECFA’ on the blog.

Read more »

This is the fifth and final posting about how the BC Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) will impact the upcoming elections – from John Whistler, the Financial Agent for the Green Party of Vancouver.

This posting describes key provisions that are missing in the LECFA and the support provided by Elections BC.

 

The most significant omission of the LECFA is that there are no audit provisions for candidates, electoral organizations or third-party sponsors. In comparison, Elections Canada requires an audit for a federal campaign that exceeds $5,000 and Elections BC requires an audit for a provincial campaign that exceeds $10,000.

Candidates, electoral organizations and third-party sponsors can complete their public disclosure statements as they see fit, without a standardized framework and without concern for an audit. Elections BC is put in the impossible position of overseeing public disclosures without the accountability that an audit provision would provide. All credibility is lost without an audit provision. Local elections are no less important to the democratic process than federal or provincial elections.

Read more »

This is the fourth posting of five about how the BC Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) will impact the upcoming elections – from John Whistler, the Financial Agent for the Green Party of Vancouver.

This posting looks at how the LECFA impacts the dynamics between the key participants: electoral organizations and their endorsed candidates, independent candidates and third party sponsors (advertisers).

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Traditionally, most candidates in local elections in BC are independent; electoral organizations have tended to emerge only in larger cities, with their endorsed candidates mostly been elected over the independents.

Third-party sponsors add further complexity to this mix. There is debate as to whether third-party sponsors should even be allowed and if electoral organizations are even appropriate for local elections (in particular in smaller communities). There does seem to be a consensus that third-party sponsors need tight regulations, and that there should be a level playing field between independent candidates and candidates endorsed by an electoral organization.

Endorsement from an electoral organization is clearly an advantage for a candidate, though it may also come with baggage and obligations. The electoral-organization advantage brings stronger branding, and administrative and financial resources. In general, the LECFA regulations are stacked against independent candidates – however, some provisions level the playing somewhat.

Read more »

More well-researched analysis by a knowledgeable insider.  We want to commission more investigations and analyses like this.  You can help by making a contribution.  

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This is the third posting of five about how the BC Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) will impact the upcoming elections – from John Whistler, the Financial Agent for the Green Party of Vancouver.

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This posting will look at the administrative complexity to manage the LECFA, which creates a nightmare for candidate and electoral organization financial agents. While many may not sympathize with the financial agent’s administrative burden, it results in counter-productive workarounds and public disclosure reports that are inconsistent and unreliable.

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This is the kind of coverage Price Tags aims to increase: well-researched analysis by knowledgeable insiders, regardless of political persuasion.  We’d like to commission more investigations and analyses of interest to people like you – readers of PT.  You can help by making a contribution.  

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This is the second posting of a series about how the BC Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) will impact the upcoming elections, from the perspective of John Whistler, the Financial Agent for the Green Party of Vancouver.

This posting will look at reporting periods, jurisdictions and expense limits. These are details that confuse and mislead the public which lead to a cynicism of the electoral process.

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The LECFA has three reporting periods:

  • Election Period – begins on January 1 of an election year and ends 29 days before voting day. In the case of a by-election, the Election Period begins the day the elected office becomes vacant.
  • Campaign Period – subject to expense spending limits – begins 28 days before voting day and ends at the close of voting on voting day.
  • Not-applicable Period – a non-voting year or after the close of voting in a voting year. The LECFA is not-applicable for this period, disclosures are not required and contribution limits do not apply for most activities for electoral organizations.
Read more »

This five-part series by John Whistler on local election financing is a good example of the kind of coverage Price Tags aims to increase: well-researched analysis by knowledgeable insiders, regardless of political persuasion.  While we’ll be counting on voluntary contributions from people like John, we’d also like to commission more investigations and analyses of interest to people like you – readers of PT.  You can help by making a contribution.  

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John has been active in election campaigns for over 15 years and has served as a financial agent for the Green Party at the federal, provincial and local levels. Currently he is the Treasurer of the Green Party of Vancouver, the Secretary of the Vancouver Pride Society and Treasurer of Pedal Society.

This is the first posting of a series about how the BC Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) will impact the upcoming elections.

This posting describes the historical context.

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WHY BC’S LOCAL ELECTIONS CAMPAIGN FINANCING ACT NEEDS REFORM

And how to do it.

Campaign financing regulations are often a forgotten component of the many factors that impact election campaigns and the democratic processes. Or debate centres around a few central issues, such as who can contribute and how much. It has been said “the devil is in the details” and this applies to LECFA.

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The upcoming civic election in Vancouver (and elsewhere in BC) has something new — controlled campaign spending, less of it, and smaller donations.

This extends to organizations that are not political parties, but advertise on their behalf. They’re called “local advertising sponsors” or “third party sponsors”. They are required to register with Elections BC, and to observe spending limits during the “campaign period”, the 28 days before voting day.

Read more »