Several mayoral candidates in Vancouver have promised to reveal the names of donors ahead of next month’s municipal election, as officials look to see if recent reforms to campaign finance laws have been effective in curbing the influence of money in local politics.
Independent candidate and former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart and Ken Sim of the Non-Partisan Association both said they would release their donor lists. Mr. Stewart has already published his list three times, while Mr. Sim said he would do so later without offering a timeline. Several other political parties without mayoral candidates said they, too, would release the information.
The Oct. 20 election is the first under a new campaign-finance law introduced by the provincial NDP government as part of a larger effort to shed British Columbia’s reputation as the Wild West of political fundraising. The government banned union and corporate donations and imposed contribution limits for municipal parties and candidates, while also placing restrictions on third-party advertising.
But the legislation appears to have had unintended consequences, notably the emergence of opaque third-party advertising in the lead-up to the campaign, when limits do not apply. The Globe and Mail reported last week that a series of billboards for mayoral candidate Hector Bremner was funded by prominent local developer Peter Wall.
Mr. Sim said that in addition to publishing the names of his donors, he would launch an independent review if elected to study the current state of the campaign finance rules.
“We’ve seen an assault on the democratic process,” he said. “We’ve seen people trying to get around the rules. Union groups paid for 100,000 Kennedy Stewart flyers. And a developer paid for billboards. It goes completely against the spirit of the new election law.”
The current law requires candidates to disclose political donations three months after municipal elections. Mr. Sim said that while he intends to release that information before the vote, he wasn’t prepared to do it immediately or say how much his party has raised so far.
Mr. Stewart, who released his latest list on Tuesday, said he has received about $123,000 from approximately 1,200 people.
Unlike elsewhere in Canada, Vancouver and other B.C. municipalities have established political parties and do not use traditional wards.
Mr. Bremner said his Yes Vancouver party would release its donor lists.
The Coalition Vancouver party, whose mayoral candidate is former Conservative MP Wai Young, said it would release its donor information as required: 90 days after the election.
Shauna Sylvester did not respond to questions about whether she intends to release her donor list.
A Vision Vancouver representative was unclear about what the party will do.
Campaign finance dominated last year’s provincial election, with both the Liberals and the NDP promising significant restrictions on who can donate and how much they can give.
The Liberals also looked into the idea of requiring real-time reporting of donations, but Elections BC said it would be too difficult. The Liberals released weekly lists during the 2017 campaign, but the NDP did not. The parties are now required to post interim statements about contributions about every six months.
In a statement, the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs said the government will review how the campaign-finance rules worked during the 2018 election to determine if further changes are needed.
In 2014, the Green Party, the Coalition of Progressive Electors and OneCity all made their donations public during the campaign. The two major parties – the Non-Partisan Association and Vision Vancouver – were then pressured into doing the same. Vision brought in $3.4-million then, while the NPA raised $2.5-million.