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Lisa Sorenson talks to recall canvassers outside her home in Saanich on Dec. 28, 2010. (Arnold Lim for The Globe and Mail/Arnold Lim for The Globe and Mail)
Lisa Sorenson talks to recall canvassers outside her home in Saanich on Dec. 28, 2010. (Arnold Lim for The Globe and Mail/Arnold Lim for The Globe and Mail)

Politics

No rules govern surplus from B.C. recall campaigns Add to ...

Recall campaign committees can do whatever they want with money left over from campaigns over the winter to unseat four MLAs, Elections B.C. says.

Provincial legislation is silent on how to handle a surplus, Don Main, a spokesman for Elections B.C., said in an interview, adding that the election agency has nothing to say about the issue.

Both sides in recall campaigns in a bid to unseat Don McRae (Comox Valley) and Marc Dalton (Maple Ridge-Mission) had a surplus. The committee trying to unseat Ida Chong (Oak Bay-Gordon Head) was the only one to end with a deficit.

Political scientist Norman Ruff said the lack of rules on what to do with leftover campaign money should concern Elections B.C.

"I find it astonishing that Elections B.C. says it has no responsibility," Mr. Ruff, a professor emeritus at the University of Victoria, said in an interview. "This represents a gap in the legislation that needs to be addressed."

The lack of rules indicates the legislation was left incomplete when it was drafted, he said. "No one really anticipated recall would become a regular feature of the political scene," Prof. Ruff said.

Recall campaigns were held last winter in the ridings of Ms. Chong, Mr. McCrae, Mr. Dalton and Terry Lake (Kamloops-North Thompson) to protest against the government's decision to harmonize the provincial sales tax with the federal goods and services tax. Organizers of the campaigns against Mr. McRae and Ms. Chong could not collect enough signatures on the recall petitions to force by-elections. Efforts to recall Mr. Lake and Mr. Dalton fizzled without anything being submitted to Elections BC.

Prof. Ruff said he did not regard the recall campaigns as failures, because they affected the race to succeed former premier Gordon Campbell as Liberal leader earlier this year.

The recall campaigns were largely responsible for the B.C. government decision to advance the date of the HST referendum to June from September, a suggestion that arose during the leadership campaign, Prof. Ruff said.

Unlike election campaigns, tax receipts are not issued for donations to recall campaigns, but the proponents and opponents of recall are required to file financing reports.

In their reports to Elections B.C., the recall committees stated they had collected funds from unions, Fight HST and individuals. They also received funds from sources that could be difficult to track down, such as from passing the hat at a town hall meeting, selling fund-raising tickets and a silent auction.

On the other side, the MLAs' campaigns were financed mostly through loans from the B.C. Liberal Party that were forgivable if the money was spent to fight the recall. Businesses and some individuals also kicked in some funds.

Wilfred McIntyre, a member of the committee that organized the Dalton recall campaign, said he has not yet talked with others on the committee about what to do with their surplus of $1,246.28. Efforts to refund all of the money might be difficult. The recall campaign raised $2,180 from selling $20 tickets at a dinner and a silent auction.

His suggestion was either to spend the money promoting the anti-HST side during the referendum campaign or to distribute the funds to two or three local charities. "What else can you do with it? You cannot just keep it," Mr. McIntyre said.

Mr. Dalton's campaign was financed mostly through a $10,500 loan from the B.C. Liberal Party. Some individuals also contributed an additional $350. Ron Seymour, Mr. Dalton's financial agent, said Mr. Dalton's committee will send its $6,100 surplus to the B.C. Liberal Party.

"The money we had will go back to where it came from. We're clear on that," Mr. Seymour said.







The numbers



MLA's committee

Money from all sources

Surplus/deficit

Ida Chong (Oak Bay- Gordon Head)

$28,498.62

$0.00

Terry Lake (Kamloops North Thompson)

$0.00

$0.00

Don McRae (Comox Valley)

$20,334.00

$1,611.26

Marc Dalton (Maple Ridge - Mission)

$10,850.00

$6,103.00



Recall committee

Money from all sources

Surplus/deficit

Ida Chong (Oak Bay- Gordon Head)

$31,666.86

-$586.87

Terry Lake (Kamloops North Thompson)

$9,550.00

$49.00

Don McRae (Comox Valley)

$12,263.00

$821.00

Marc Dalton (Maple Ridge-Mission)

$3,075.00

$1,246.28

Robert Matas

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