Elections task force reports to the province

Boundary Sentinel
By Boundary Sentinel
June 3rd, 2010

Co-chairs Community and Rural Development Minister Bill Bennett, and Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) president Harry Nyce announced that the final report from the Local Government Elections Task Force has been delivered. The task force, started by Premier Gordon Campbell at the 2009 UBCM meeting, has been hearing input from municipalities, elected officials and citizens for the past few months and the report reflects the varied responses. Grand Forks City Councillor Gene Robert gave input to the task force, and has been following the process. Robert said that, overall, he is happy with the recommendations from the group.

“I am quite happy, it went better than I thought it would,” said Robert. “It was surprising that many elected officials didn’t really seem interested in that task force. I think the report is progressive and it will be interesting to see how it is interpreted by government.”

The report contains 31 recommendations to improve local government elections. While many recommendations for change were considered, some contentious ones were not included at the end. The task force recommended no changes to some current rules there were under scrutiny including the decision not to establish general limits on contribution amounts or sources and the decision not to establish a corporate vote in municipal elections.

“Our purpose was to identify shortcomings in the local government elections process,” said Bennett. “Although we found the existing process to have integrity and relatively few problems, we did identify a number of gaps that we recommend filling.”

The recommendations would improve local government elections by ensuring accountability, enhancing transparency, strengthening compliance and enforcement, increasing accessibility, and expanding education and advice. They include:
• placing expense limits on local election campaign participants;
• requiring registration and disclosure by third party advertisers;
• requiring sponsorship information on all election advertising;
• making campaign finance disclosure statements available earlier and in an electronically searchable form;
• establishing a key role for Elections BC in enforcement of local campaign finance rules;
• establishing a separate act for local campaign finance rules;
• extending terms of local elected officers to four years.

“The task force has worked hard to develop solutions that are workable for communities of all sizes,” said Nyce. “We are very appreciative of the constructive submissions the task force received from a wide variety of organizations, local governments and individuals. We believe that the recommendations advanced in the report are substantive and achieve the goal set for our work.”

Robert was pleased that the recommendations did not try to limit contributions and their sources and that there has been some clearer definition of the Chief Election Officer’s role.

“They have redefined it which I was quite pleased with,” said Robert, “because the Election Officer really has a much bigger impact than just monitoring the day of voting. They make some pretty heavy decisions about what is legal or illegal. I think the task force finally recognized that. It’s all about fairness.”

Robert also said that he will be watching to see if the recommendations are enacted before the 2011 elections, but has some confidence in action being taken since the Premier himself started the process.

“It was the Premier who struck this task force because he saw irregularities particularly in bigger cities,” said Robert. “I’m going to really be monitoring it. I will be attending UBCM in September and if nothing has happened by then I will take it to the (UBCM) executive.”

Premier Gordon Campbell announced the task force at the 2009 UBCM annual convention. The task force was co-chaired by Bennett and Nyce, and included two government MLAs, two UBCM members and one UBCM alternate. The report has been delivered to the Province and UBCM. It is anticipated the changes, if implemented, will be in place in time for the 2011 local elections.

For the full report go to: www.localelectionstaskforce.gov.bc.ca.

Categories: Politics