Province changes to rules to block union and corporate donations in local elections

Votes are counted during the 2017 Fort St. John Council by-election
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VICTORIA, B.C. – The Provincial Government has announced changes to the Local Election Campaign Financing Act regulations.  The changes are being made to ensure that union and corporate donations cannot be used to fund any expenses of elector organizations during the year of a general local election.

“This change will ensure that we have a level playing field for candidates by keeping big money out of local elections,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The amendment we brought into effect today recognizes that operational expenses and election expenses are hard to distinguish during an election year. This is a targeted change, to ensure elector organizations understand operational expenses will now be treated as election expenses in an election year.”

The regulation increases the scope of what is defined as election expenses for “continuing” elector organizations. Under the previous rules, some operational expenses of elector organizations were not considered election expenses, leading to concerns about the influence of donors with deep pockets. This change will ensure that corporate and union donations cannot be used to influence elections.

These amendments are in effect for the 2018 general local elections in October, and will also apply to the board of education elections.

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Quick Facts:

* An elector organization is any organization that files documents with a local government to endorse candidates in a particular local election. Elector organizations are often referred to as civic political parties.

* Elector organizations are distinct from provincial political parties, as some may only exist to endorse candidates for a particular local election, while others may operate on a continuing basis between local elections.

* Elector organizations are subject to different rules than provincial political parties (e.g., elector organizations do not register or file annual financial reports with Elections BC).

* This regulation focuses on elector organizations that operate on a continuing basis between local elections.

* The Local Elections Campaign Financing Act was amended in 2016 to implement expense limits for local elections, and in fall 2017 to ban corporate, union, and out-of-province donations and put limits on individual campaign contributions.

* The application, monitoring and enforcement of campaign finance rules is the role of Elections BC. Elections BC’s role is to administer the new campaign finance rules for local elections fairly for all participants and to help political participants understand the new rules.

* Questions on how campaign financing rules apply to specific situations should be directed to Elections BC, the agency responsible for compliance and enforcement.

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