I applaud St. John’s city councillor Bernard Davis for pursuing a review of the city’s municipal election finance bylaw.
He has asked for the matter to be referred to the city clerk and the city’s audit and accountability committee.
More to be done
However, I hope Davis is also encouraging the city’s audit and accountability committee to seek public input.
There are many failings within the current bylaw. After reading the 2013 election campaign contributions reports, I asked the city three questions, and each question was answered with the response “The bylaw is silent on that issue.” My questions had to do with candidates’ excess funds and what happens to these funds.
What happens to extra money?
In the 2013 election, we have two candidates who raised more funds than they are allowed to spend on their campaign.
We also have an acclaimed candidate who raised campaign contributions.
Do these candidates have excess funds from their election campaign?
Other candidates may also have excess funds. Because candidates do not have to declare how much they spend on their campaign (only declare it was under the maximum limit), we are not able to assess the financial situation. Is this the intent of the bylaw?
Surely an election campaign is not intended as an opportunity for candidates to raise additional income?
There are issues with the expenditure side of campaigns and these should also be addressed.
I sincerely hope council will be proactive and positive with this review.
Not quick to act
Sadly, when asking councillors to make changes that directly affect them, history shows us they are reluctant participants.
Councillors agreed to change their benefits package only when the city was in union negotiations with Metrobus and wanted union employees to make changes to their benefits package.
And most recently, their pension package was changed because, as the city’s 2014 budget states, “Council has taken the necessary action to put its own ‘pension house’ in order and will now turn its attention toward the other city pension plans in 2014.”
Let’s hope this time, the motivation for change will be driven by transparency and accountability, because city employees do not have an equivalent issue!
Lionel West was a candidate in the 2013
St. John’s municipal election who chose not to accept campaign contributions.