It is time for the City of St. John’s to update its election finance bylaw.
Unlike provincial and federal laws, the city’s election candidates do not have to file a return of expenses. All that is required is a declaration that “total election expenditures did not exceed the limit established for expenditures in accordance with the provisions of the St. John’s election finance bylaw.”
Candidates have to indicate total monetary contributions to their campaign (and list individual contributors exceeding $250) but expenditure accountability relies totally on the honour system.
In this day and age, where we expect openness and transparency from our politicians, why does the city not require the same standard from its election candidates?
We have seen how the honour system has been abused within the Canadian Senate — I’m not saying this has happened here, but why does the city create the environment for such a possibility?
Also knowing what candidates are spending will provide information for assessing campaign expenditure limits. Currently, at-large, mayoral and Deputy mayor candidates can spend close to $80,000, while ward candidates may have up to $25,000 available, depending on the number of registered voters within the ward.
Let’s update and tighten the bylaw (using both provincial and federal laws as guidelines) to ensure candidates are held accountable for their campaign expenses in an open and transparent manner.