April 9, 2015

How to Buy a Civic Election

Michael Alexander reports – urgently:


An all -party Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits is holding hearings today until 7 p.m. in room 320 at the Wosk Centre, 580 West Hastings. They’re taking public testimony on putting caps on spending for local elections. However, their mandate does not include recommending limits on contributions to local parties.

From the executive summary of their Phase 1 report in December:

The Committee concluded its deliberations by recommending that fairness, neutrality, transparency and accountability be principles which may inform the development of legislation on expense limits for candidates, elector organizations, and third party advertisers. In relation to the principle of neutrality, the Committee concluded that an approach of no separate additional expense limits for elector organizations was desirable. The Committee also recommended that third party advertising be included in an expense limits framework, with an overarching, cumulative limit as exists in provincial elections.

The Committee will continue its work in 2015 with the examination and development of recommendations on expense limit amounts for candidates, elector organizations, and third party advertisers.

Ah, motherhood.

Let’s say that the Committee recommends, and the provincial legislature passes, laws limiting party spending to $1 million per election. But there is no cap on individual contributions. So, I give the NPA an unsolicited $1 million and become that party’s sole funder. Then, to eliminate all risk, I do the same with Vision Vancouver, and a lesser amount to the Green Party. I am now the sole funder of what is, almost certainly, every elected councillor in the city.

For a bit more than $2 million, I now have singular access and influence over legislation of the province’s largest city, for four years.

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    The issue of expense limits is but a byproduct of the root problem, that being that donors commit funds in exchange for access and support for their issues. The single largest issue facing the region, and driving all costs, is development which brings with it population. The ability to exploit the land with higher and higher density is tantamount to capturing a Brinks Truck, the door to which is controlled by council.

    The development community buys that access and support so that when it brings forward land assembly proposal tied to ever larger densification versus existing zoning levels and Official Community Plans, those limits will be expanded by a ‘bought-and-paid-for’ council which it funded into office by those developer and Union interests.

    The answer to the problem is very simple. Compel in law, the requirement for each councillor and Mayor that has accepted a donation from a developer or union (anyone), who then brings forward a proposal to council specific to themselves, must recuse from participating in any vote which would affect that donor.

    If donors can’t buy influence, because they can’t get the voting support of their selected candidates, then they won’t fund those candidates, and the donations will fall back to where they once were, affordable for everyone who wishes to participate in the democratic process.

    It is the Local Government Act which is the root of the problem. It leaves individual councillors and Mayors to decide if they are in a conflict of interest, and sadly, they all appear to have lost their moral compasses and have traded their council votes for $.

    In the City of North Vancouver, we have a whose who of developers who have made donations to the Team Mussatto ‘Slate’ and the byproduct of the election is that, due to campaign donations, we have granted the single largest density increases ever, at a mere pittance of their true worth. FDG received a density bonus which is nearly 300% above the OCP limit, new or old, and we are now about to green-light gambling in Lower Lonsdale due, I believe, in a large part to a significant campaign donation made to Mayor Mussatto, and to other members of his ‘Slate’ by Tom Nellis through his company K&T. Donations which I believe were offered and accepted in trade for CNV gambling rights. Sounds like Vegas in the early years. Congratulations Darrell ‘Bugsy’ Mussatto! Your turning us into ‘Your Sad Little Vision’ of Reno North! All because the legislation leaves it to elected officials themselves to determine if they are in a conflict of interest, and many appear to lack the moral for the legislation to properly function.

    It also important to note that the committe, despite the ability, refuses to include the cost to the community in the election expense calculation. By that I mean, what does it cost the community to approve gambling, what will that election expense be. Campaigning candidates make those promises, then we taxpayers foot the bill. Truthfully those promises are an election expense, and where they are being traded for dollars, they should be included in the $ count.

    Kerry Morris
    Candidate for Mayor, CNV

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