Sidney mayor fights for job, admits to campaign overspending

The mayor of Sidney will have to ask a court for permission to keep his job after violating campaign spending limits last year.

Cliff McNeil-Smith has disclosed to Elections B.C. that his mayoral campaign overspent by $1,877 in the run-up to the Oct. 20 municipal election.

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Under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, candidates who violate spending rules lose their seat unless they obtain relief from the courts. They also face fines equal to twice what they overspent.

The spending limit for Sidney mayoral candidates from Sept. 22 to election day on Oct. 20 was $11,349.

McNeil-Smith said his campaign spent $13,226.63.

The mayor said he accepts that his campaign made a mistake and will voluntarily pay the fine, and he intends to apply for relief from B.C. Supreme Court to retain his seat.

“We’re acting as quickly as we can to file that application and hope for the matter to be resolved quickly through the court,” he said.

The law says candidates have to show that exceeding the spending limit did not “materially affect” election results, and that their campaign showed due diligence to prevent overspending.

McNeil-Smith noted that he received about 80 per cent of the vote (3,740) compared to 20 per cent (929) for his opponent, former mayor Steve Price.

“Given the results, we believe that the overspending did not materially affect the results,” McNeil-Smith said in an interview.

He also intends to prove that he showed due diligence as a candidate.

Price, however, said Wednesday that McNeil-Smith should “do the right thing” and resign his seat to allow for a new election.

“The rules are there for a reason, just to make a level playing field for everybody,” Price said. “I stuck to the rules and he didn’t.”

Rebecca Penz, communications director with Elections B.C., said 2018 was the first time that expense limits were set for candidates, elector organizations and third-party advertising sponsors in local elections.

Elections B.C. expects to post disclosure statements and contribution data in early February.

“We won’t be able to confirm how many times the expense limits were exceeded until after the statements have been reviewed for compliance to the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act,” Penz said in a statement.

The deadline for filing disclosure statements was Jan. 18.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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