Disclosure rules on way for local elections

Tougher financial disclosure rules are to take effect in time for November elections, but spending limits will come later

Community Minister Coralee Oakes and UBCM president Rhona Martin announce changes to local government elections to be held in November.

VICTORIA – Candidates for municipal and school board elections will have to register with Elections BC and report donations of $50 or more when they run in province-wide elections this November.

Legislation tabled by the B.C. government Wednesday will extend the term of office to four years as well as tightening rules for campaign financing and advertising. Third-party advertisers will also have to register before promoting candidates, and financial disclosures will have to be filed with Elections BC within 90 days of the vote.

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes said the new rules have been developed in consultation with the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and that discussion determined that an outright ban on anonymous donations is too strict. The disclosure rule will also apply to third-party advertisers, who will have to report sources of donations more than $50 and identify themselves in advertising.

Campaign spending limits won’t be imposed until after the elections scheduled for Nov. 15, 2014. Oakes said that measure is complex because the variety of local governments in B.C. is the widest in Canada, including large and small communities, regional districts, school boards, park boards and the Islands Trust that governs the Gulf Islands.

The legislation also moves the date of local elections from November to October, but that won’t take effect until 2018.

UBCM president Rhona Martin, a director of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, said the move to four-year terms is not a “perfect solution,” but it was supported by a majority of delegates at last year’s convention. In previous votes, some small community representatives said even three-year terms may be too long for a time-consuming commitment with little pay.

The change in reporting rules creates a large task of compliance and enforcement for Elections BC. Oakes said the Elections BC will present its proposed costs to the legislature committee that determines budgets for all independent officers, including the Auditor General.

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