Local mayoral candidates aren’t rushing to follow the lead of their Vancouver counterparts who agreed this week to disclose their campaign donors before residents go to the polls Nov. 15.
Under provincial legislation, municipal candidates must disclose financial details of their campaigns, including campaign contributions, within 90 days after the vote. But with some critics charging that decisions at Vancouver city hall are being influenced by developers, Vancouver’s two major civic parties, the Non-Partisan Association and Vision Vancouver, have agreed to make public a list of donors prior to the vote.
Mayoral candidates in Victoria and Saanich said it wouldn’t be appropriate to change the rules mid-campaign.
One of the Victoria mayoral candidates is Coun. Lisa Helps, who filed election contributions of $26,819 when she ran for council in 2011. “We’ve told all our donors that the information is released after the election, and I think it would be really unfair just to say: ‘Oh, we’ve changed our minds [and] we’re going to release it now.’ It’s changing the rules halfway through the game,” Helps said.
“I know what the province will do for 2018 is change the rules so donations are disclosed as they come in. That would be great. But those aren’t the rules [now].”
Other candidates took similar stances. “We’d have to go back and ask permission from everyone,” said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin. “So we would have to spend some resources doing that.”
Fortin, who had more than $70,000 in campaign donations in 2011, said he would not be opposed to releasing the information early, if all candidate agreed.
“I’m proud of the people who support me,” Fortin said, adding his campaign usually has a very balanced split of labour, business and individual donors.
“I know it’s a big deal in Vancouver. I haven’t heard anybody in Victoria highlighting the issue,” Fortin said.
Howard Markson, communications manager for Victoria mayoral candidate Stephen Andrew, said the campaign team had no philosophical difficulty with a disclosure prior to the election day, but thought it would be technically difficult to pull off as final tallies aren’t known until after the campaign is over.
Mark Mawhinney, Ida Chong’s campaign manager, said they hadn’t considered the idea.
“When we raised the money, obviously, we were doing so with the donors’ expectation that their names would be disclosed within 90 days of election day, but not beforehand,” Mawhinney said. “So to be honest, we hadn’t thought about it. If we were to consider that, we’d want to go back to our donors.”
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, whose team raised $62,062 in campaign donations in 2011, said changing the rules mid-campaign would be extremely taxing both on volunteers doing fundraising and on his financial agent, who is tasked with keeping track of contributions and expenses.
Leonard’s opponent Richard Atwell did not return a request for comment by deadline.
Both Leonard and Fortin noted that Vancouver is in a different league than Victoria or Saanich, when it comes to campaign fundraising. “They’ve got six-figure donors and six-figure campaigns,” Leonard said. “We’re quite excited when we have a donation of $100. Vision and NPA are talking about $100,000 donations.”
Three years ago, NPA raised about $2.8 million while Vision raised $2.2 million.
The B.C. government declined in March to change campaign-finance rules, with the result that there are no donation limits or bans on corporate or union contributions in civic elections.