Earlier in February, the provincial government enacted most of the provisions of MLA Jeff Johnson’s 2009 Legislative Session private member’s Bill 203, the Local Authorities Election (Finance and Contribution Disclosure) Act.
I had previously requested a report on what Bill 203 could mean for Edmonton, as well as on changes that Calgary had enacted in the fall; on February 17, City staff provided the report. Some of the Act’s implementation details are quite ridiculous, given the nearness of the 2010 election.
The City report included a draft letter to the province articulating a number of concerns and questions, although the letter was updated considerably after debate. I can’t yet locate a copy of the updated letter on the city’s website. This was the original draft.
The revised letter approved by Council called for the outright repeal of the Act and included some additional questions and concerns about the audit requirements, about whose onus it is to establish which corporations are related for purposes of the $5,000 contribution limit, and about whether volunteer hours count as campaign contributions. I supported sending the letter, though I didn’t agree with all the points in it.
I spoke against asking for repeal of the whole Act, since I think the principles of the Act are good. Most of the contribution disclosure requirements and rules about campaign surpluses mirror our existing Disclosure Bylaw. Really the only additions are a $5,000 limit to contributions by a person, corporation, or labour group to a given campaign, and a requirement to disclose the identity of anyone whose contribution exceeds $100 per three-year period (under our current bylaw, this threshold is $300).
I spoke in support of the contribution limits and in support of the $100 disclosure threshold. Sadly, this was not reported in yesterday’s Journal story (nor the Sun story), so it appeared as if all of Council opposed the whole bill, which is not quite accurate. In any case, I had intended to observe these rules in the conduct of my own campaign this fall.
Like my colleagues, I believe there are some poor policies specific to 2010 election implementation, such as the requirement to submit any accumulated surpluses within 90 days of proclamation (that is, by May 3, 2010). The way this is written, any funds raised since the last election must also be handed to the City in trust; a candidate won’t get the funds back until nomination day, which is September 20, 2010. This could unfairly impact a campaign’s cash flow, and it will essentially force all prospective candidates — if they have raised more than $500 — to declare their candidacy by May 3.
The big issue that irks many of my colleagues–and me somewhat, but less so–is the province’s imposition on municipal autonomy. This territoriality came up when I discussed Bill 203 in May last year. To my eyes, incorporating the majority of our Disclosure Bylaw in provincial law is a testament to our city’s leadership in this area and a commentary on Calgary’s comparatively Wild West rules.
Either way, I was more or less dared to put amendments forward to our Disclosure Bylaw if I really think the $5,000 limit and the $100 disclosure threshold are good policy. So I gave Notice of Motion on Wednesday to do just that:
Councillor D. Iveson stated that at the next regular meeting of Council, he will make the following motion:
That Administration bring forward amendments to the Disclosure Bylaw as follows:
a) limiting campaign contributions by any person or corporation to (figure to be added) in any campaign period
b) requiring disclosure of contributions $100 and above from any one contributor during the campaign period, and the disclosure of the total amount of contributions below $100
So we’ll debate this at our March 10 Council meeting.