Friday, November 14, 2014
Citizens for Smart Governance - registered on the Elections BC website
Candidates are crying foul about a campaign flyer claiming to be a representative ballot for tomorrow’s municipal election in Summerland. The flyer was delivered as an insert in Thursday's Summerland Review. “This is the same sort of garbage that plagued the 2008 election with Summerland being one of five B.C. communities that were suspected of election irregularities,” said mayoral candidate Peter Waterman. The flyer lists all five names of the mayoral candidates and 12 of the 15 candidates for councillor positions. Names of the preferred candidate for mayor and the six councillors are in large bold letters with a large check sign beside each. The other names are in small letters. The names of three candidates for councillor, Erin Carlson, Denise MacDonald and Dan Papadopoulos, are not listed. “This is an ad for a slate—preferred candidates indicated, others in small type and others not even listed,” Waterman said. “I know personally that at least two of the candidates for councillor—Erin Trainer and Joel Gregg—endorsed on the list were not asked for their permission and they are hurt and fell betrayed,” said mayoral candidate Roch Fortin. In an interview, Orv Robson who was endorsed for mayor said he had no knowledge that his name would be included on the flyer. “This was same approach that took place in the last two elections. And these people helped elect the present council,” said mayoral candidate David Gregory. The flyer is authorized by Citizens for Smart Governance, a registered sponsor under the Local Elections Campaign Finance Act, and gives contact information as email@example.com. “When you go to the website the names of Robert MacDonald and Mark Ziebarth come up. Ziebarth was associated with the suspected irregularity in 2008,” Waterman said. Ziebarth is a business instructor at Okanagan College and is also active in Helena Konanz's campaign for city council in Penticton. “The fact that the group is a registered body makes this type of ad no less odious. I for one would not my name associated with this group, but it was there and without my consent,” Waterman said. “I hope that voters take the time to meet and read about the candidates and make their own choices based on the qualifications and integrity of people running for office and not because their names appear on some sort of slate,” Fortin said.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun July 7, 2010
The muddy waters of municipal conflict of interest got another stir late last month, just weeks after then community development minister Bill Bennett admitted that the law isn't nearly as it ought to be.
This time, though, it's not the law itself that's been found wanting. Instead, three judges of the B.C. Court of Appeal agreed that both the process and the penalty are problematic.
The justices exonerated Spallumcheen Mayor Wybren Jan (Will) Hansma of conflict of interest. They upheld an earlier B.C. Supreme Court decision that Hansma had not acted improperly when he voted in March 2008 to amend the Official Community Plan to allow all A-2 parcels of less than 75 acres that are not in the agricultural land reserve to be rezoned as small holdings.
Rezoned in this way, the parcels can then be subdivided into lots no smaller than 2.5 acres.
Hansma owns a four-acre plot adjacent to a 10-acre parcel owned by his two sons, and 32 Spallumcheen electors sought to have the mayor disqualified from office because the change potentially gave Hansma and his sons a financial benefit.
All of the judges disagreed with the electors.
Hansma's property is simply too small, they said, and there was no evidence that he would benefit if his sons subdivided their property.
In this case, the judges had no problem deciding what conflict of interest means in the civic context. But there have been a number of cases where jurists have mentioned how difficult it is to interpret the law.
An example of its complexity played out recently in Delta. In late May, Delta Coun. Heather King recused herself from voting on a development, saying that she had a conflict because she'd accepted a campaign donation from Ron Toigo and his company, while others who had received similar donations stayed on and voted.
Both sides believed that they were doing the right -- and legal -- thing.
But what the Spallumcheen case revealed is an entirely different problem.
The process takes so long that the punishment -- disqualification from holding office until the date of the next general election -- is likely to be moot by the time the case is decided.
"The potential period of disqualification in this case has long since lapsed, there having been a general local election in November 2008," they wrote in the unanimous decision.
"It raises the serious issue. ... Were we to refuse to hear the appeal as moot, it would be a rare case that could be advanced through the court process, given the election cycle in municipal governance."
The justices noted that the issue in the case was serious, and the allegations of consequence to both the electors and to Hansma -- and it's an issue that has the potential to arise again.
For those reasons, the appeal court heard the case even though, had the justices overturned the lower court's decision, Hansma would have been free to go back to City Hall and resume the mayor's chair.
But what it means is that without some amendment, there's a very real possibility that other mayors and/or councillors could break the law, enrich themselves and remain on council even after they've been found guilty.
The recently dissolved municipal-election task force erred in not addressing any aspect of conflict of interest in what was to have been a sweeping review of the elections provision.
And it's all the more reason that Ben Stewart, who replaced Bennett, needs to rethink the decision to leave it alone until after the next provincewide municipal vote in November 2011.
Bennett has said it's already going to be a rush to turn the task force's recommendations to limit spending, increase transparency and improve enforcement into law before next spring.
A full review of conflict of interest may not be possible between now and then.
But it surely wouldn't take that long to come up with a penalty that would ensure that any future politicians who try to line their own pockets would face a meaningful consequence.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Conflict+interest+penalties+must+have+some+consequence/3244263/story.html#ixzz0u0NUC1eH
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Do big campaign contributions influence politicians' decisions?
The committee that tackled municipal election reform in B.C. decided they don't.
Most British Columbians, polls suggest, disagree.
The committee - three Liberal MLAs and three Union of B.C. Municipalities representatives - delivered its recommendations this week.
There is much positive in the report, including a call for campaign spending limits and badly needed rules on third-party advertising.
But the group, chaired by Community Development Minister Bill Bennett, decided against any limits on campaign contributions. Unions, companies and individuals will still be able to donate millions of dollars to support candidates and slates. The public will still have to vote without knowing who is picking up the bills for candidates. (That is revealed months later.)
The wide-open approach undermines democracy.
Voter participation in municipal elections is dismal. Candidates struggle to be noticed. So financial backing can make a huge difference in their chances of being elected.
At a minimum, the dependence on large donors creates the risk that only candidates who can attract their support - or become part of a slate that can - have a serious chance of electoral success. That limits the ability of ordinary citizens to offer their ideas and energy in a fair election campaign.
And it creates the clear perception that candidates are indebted to their financial backers. If electoral success relies on donations from the union representing municipal workers or a major developer, then those organizations effectively become gatekeepers to the political process. Politicians who displease them face the risk of having their funding vanish the next time around.
The committee decided the donations were not a problem. People and organizations have a right to spend money to influence the outcome of elections, it judged. And donations allow those affected by municipal government, but ineligible to vote - a corporation from any other province or country, for example - to participate in the democratic process.
Disclosure of donations within a few months of the election allow the public to be alert to any favoritism, the committee said. It called for an online municipal donation reporting site to make that easier, a welcome innovation. (The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, while opposing donation limits, proposed requiring all contributions to be disclosed publicly five days before the vote.)
Most provinces disagree with B.C.'s approach. Only two others allow unlimited donations; the others either have limits or allow municipalities to impose them.
The public disagrees too. A Mustel poll earlier this year found three-quarters of British Columbians favoured contribution limits and two-thirds wanted a ban on union and corporate donations.
And the committee received 134 submissions calling for limits on contributions, compared with 31 that wanted to maintain the status quo.
But the issue of political contributions goes beyond municipal elections.
There are no contribution limits in provincial elections. The Greens and New Democrats both support donation limits; the Liberals prefer to allow individuals, corporations and unions to give as much as they choose.
If the committee had decided some rules were needed in municipal campaigns - as the public believes - it would have been hard for the Liberals to keep arguing that provincial campaigns should remain a financing free-for-all.
Most of the changes recommended are positive. Spending limits - if they are set low enough - would reduce the influence of big donors and encourage grassroots campaigns. The committee has called for more effective disclosure of donations in an easily accessible way. Enforcement provisions would be strengthened.
And municipal election terms would change to four years from three. The reduced accountability would, it's hoped, by increased effectiveness as councillors had longer to learn their jobs and address issues before the next election loomed.
All useful changes. But sadly, the failure to move on contribution limits leaves the most significant problem untouched.
Footnote: The government decided against having independent MLA Vicki Huntington or any New Democrats on the committee. And Surrey Coun. Barbara Steele, one of the UBCM reps, is a former Liberal candidate.
"Report on municipal elections step in right direction" - editorial Wednesday, June 2, 2010 Penticton Herald
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
For years, lobbyists have known the cheapest and most effective branch of government to influence is at the
municipal level, whether things are above-board or not.
If someone wants to lobby the provincial or federal government, it has to pass through a lot of hands. It was therefore refreshing to see the B.C. Liberals call for a report on electoral
reform for municipal elections.
In the 2008 election, some ridings in the province were a Gong Show when it came to following guidelines. This report, which you can view on-line, is pretty good. There are still some cracks to be filled but that can be expected with any new piece of legislation.
The idea of a four-year term is dumb.
It will discourage more people from running because of that extra year and if a town or city gets stuck with a poor council, they will have them for an additional year.
Once upon a time, terms were only two years and that was far too short mainly because of unfinished business and succeeding councils being able to reverse decisions.
So what was good about the task force report?
- Municipal spending limits will be in place. While this may prove to be an advantage for incumbents (but likely not in Penticton) it limits the big spenders from buying victory.
- Anonymous donations are now outlawed.
- All advertising must state who paid for each ad.
- Third party advertisers must register.
- Complete disclosure must be placed on-line within 90 days of the election. At the present time, anyone wishing to view election
information must go to the inconvenience of visiting their municipal hall.
A common word that was used is "transparency" and this is extremely important.
In an informal poll of candidates in Summerland, both successful and unsuccessful, all seem to agree that this report is an
extremely positive start.
- James M. Miller