24 hours after legislation was introduced to ban corporate and union funding for provincial elections, the Government, in a remarkable change of heart, has decided to extend the ban to cover municipal elections.
In a story buried at the very back of the Toronto Star’s GTA section, Noor Javed reports today that
“initially, the province had proposed passing legislation as part of Bill 181, the proposed Municipal Elections Modernisation Act, which would give municipalities the power to make their own decisions on whether to change the contentious fundraising rules.”
But, yesterday, almost as an after-thought, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ted McMeekin, said it made sense to follow suit at the municipal level.
I am very much in favour of keeping developer money out of elections but we wait to see the small print.
Elections have to be financed. And some elections at municipal level are big, very big. If Chris Ballard’s Bill 42 passes, we could be electing a new Chair of York Region in 2018 with an electorate of 750,000 people. And at municipal level there are no political parties to share the financial burden.
A report to York Region in February 2016 pointed out that candidates could incur significant expenses in a region wide election campaign.
“Campaign spending limits are prescribed by the Municipal Elections Act using a formula based on the number of eligible electors. For a head of council, the spending limit is $7,500 plus $0.85 per eligible elector. Based on 2014 statistics, a candidate in a Region-wide election for the Regional Chair would have a spending limit close to $600,000, Based on population projections the spending limit in 2018 could be in excess of $650,000.”
This sum is enough to alarm even the stout-hearted.
That said, we need a directly elected Regional Chair but there must be tight spending caps, rigorously policed.
update on Sunday 22 May 2016: Here is today's Toronto Star editorial