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Province says it's too late to make local election changes for 2011

Municipal elections will go ahead in November in British Columbia without the major changes a task force recommended last year.

"We understand [the Union of B.C. Municipalities and some local governments may be disappointed that these changes won't be in place for this year's elections," community, sport and cultural development minister Ida Chong said in a prepared statement.

The Local Government Elections Task Force released its report, which included 31 recommendations, 15 of which required changes to B.C. laws, on May 28, 2010. In July, 2010, the government said it would proceed with the recommendations in time for the 2011 elections.

Since the report's release, The Tyee reported in March, the government has had the legislature sit for just eight days. Premier Gordon Campbell resigned in November and the BC Liberal Party took three months to replace him.

The task force's recommendations included:

• implementing expense limits for all campaign participants, including candidates, parties and third-party advertisers;

• setting those limits in a way that works for different sized communities;

• banning anonymous contributions;

• requiring all election advertising to say who had paid for it, as happens now in provincial and federal elections;

• making it necessary for third-party advertisers to register and to say how much money they spent on ads;

• shortening the time limit for campaigns to submit their financial disclosure statements to 90 days from general voting day;

• providing for financial disclosures to be published online and made available through Elections BC;

• developing standard financial disclosure forms;

• bringing the rules around "in kind" contributions into line with provincial rules;

• giving Chief Election Officers powers to enforce rules including those against election-day advertising and to seek injunctions to stop unauthorized advertising; and

• extending the time limits for investigating alleged local elections offences from six months to one year.

Chong now says the provincial government will make the changes before the 2014 municipal elections.

"Our highest priority must be to help ensure local elections run smoothly, without confusion, and that all participants have an opportunity to understand and follow the rules," said Chong. The government heard concerns it was too late to make the changes with campaigns already underway, she said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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