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Campbell vows local election reform

The UBCM did nothing to reduce the influence of big money over small elections, but Premier Gordon Campbell called for a blue-ribbon panel to propose new rules for local elections across B.C.

“We’ll be forming a task force to make recommendations on writing a new local government election act,” Premier Campbell told the Union of British Columbia Municipalities on Friday morning.

“It will be stand-alone legislation that will modernize your election rules, and create a single province-wide electoral process for local government elections,” he said, adding that the act could “designate a new chief electoral officer as an independent supervisor, administrator and enforcer of common local government election processes.”

Campbell committed the task force to an open process, and urged UBCM members to reconsider all aspects of local elections.

“There’s an opportunity here for you to ask yourselves questions like, ‘What should the local government election cycle be?’ Do you want to go back to two years, like it was? Should you go forward to four years?” Campbell said.

“There’s an opportunity to enact principles of the provincial election act, including disclosure, spending limits and other changes that will improve fairness, accountability, transparency and public participation,” he continued, adding,“Perhaps it’s time to restore voting rights for industrial and business property owners in our communities.

Campbell said the task force will be co-chaired by UBCM president Harry Nice and Community Development Minister Bill Bennett, and will include two additional UBCM representatives as well as two MLAs. He said the task force will report back by May 30, 2010, and that the resulting act will be introduced to the legislature prior to the next municipal election in 2011.

The task force was one of only two specifics announced in the Premier’s address, the other being an endorsement of UBCM’s call for the creation of something called “B.C. Local Government Week.”

Campbell's announcement came just moments after the UBCM policy convention adjourned without debating two controversial motions related to campaign finance. One would have asked the province to set limits on both the amount of money that individuals (or organizations) can give to local candidates (or organizations) as well as the amount of money that can be spent; that resolution also called for a ban on money "from sources outside of Canada." The second unheard resolution would have required similar disclosure and restrictions among individuals who sought nomination but failed to become party candidates.

The Tyee published a 2007 investigative series about B.C.’s municipal campaign finance problem entitled City Hall for Sale .

And in 2008, The Tyee revealed how a society connected to former Mayor Sam Sullivan effectively concealed the identity of some donors . The province refused to investigate the allegations involving Sullivan, who was unsuccessful in becoming his party’s mayoral candidate in 2008.

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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