Local Elections Campaign Finance Amendments

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson has introduced legislative amendments to the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act. The legislation would ban corporate and union donations, put limits on individual contributions and ban out-of-province donations at the local level.

UBCM has advocated for changes to campaign finance rules based on resolutions from the 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2017 Conventions. In a statement, UBCM President Wendy Booth expressed appreciation for Minister Robinson’s leadership on these longstanding requests and said the proposed change will support fairness during campaigns.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing consulted UBCM on the proposed legislative changes. The amendments will apply to all local elections starting with the 2018 general local elections and any by-elections thereafter, including campaigns for councillors, mayors, electoral area directors and school trustees.

Contributions for the election campaign of a candidate or elector organization will be limited to $1,200 per donor per year. One donor’s total contributions to the election campaign for an elector organization and all of its endorsed candidates cannot exceed this amount. These changes follow the approach of the proposed provincial Election Amendment Act.

Once passed, the changes will be retroactive to Oct. 31, 2017, the day after the first reading of the legislation. To allow candidates to transition to the new campaign financing framework, contributions allowed under the former rules and received before Oct. 31, 2017, may be used for the 2018 general local elections.

Due to the tight timelines for the 2018 local elections, the proposed legislative changes do not include contribution limits for third-party advertisers. Advertising in elections is a form of political expression. That means any limits on that expression, such as through contribution limits for third party advertisers, would need to consider complex legal issues. With the fast-approaching 2018 local elections, it would not be feasible to develop carefully balanced rules that would satisfy both the need for limits and protection of freedom of expression. This issue will be monitored during the 2018 local elections for potential future legislative change.

The changes proposed by the provincial government follow on amendments to the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act in 2016 to address election expense limits. The 2016 amendments to the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act put in place expense limits for candidates, elector organizations and third-party advertisers. The cap on expenses follows a consistent formula for all candidates and is generally based on the population of an election area. These changes will be in effect for the 2018 general local elections as well.

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