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BC voters support local campaign spending limits: Survey

British Columbians overwhelmingly support limits on what campaigns can collect and spend in municipal elections, according to a survey of 3,689 people conducted by the Vancouver advocacy group Think City in co-operation with Fair Voting BC.

"The message we heard from the public was clear," Think City chair Neil Monckton said in a release, "the vast majority want to clean up municipal politics with tighter rules on campaign financing."

The survey, which was conducted between February 22 and April 12, was released as a provincial task force is studying ways to overhaul how local elections are conducted in BC.

The 2008 municipal election cycle resulted in numerous cases of electoral violations, unethical conduct and maladministration, according to Think City. Click here to read a Tyee series about British Columbia's lax local campaign finance laws.

"Public confidence in the systems used to elect local governments in British Columbia was shaken," Monckton said. "Municipal politics is the lawless ‘wild west’ of Canadian politics and tough rules on campaign finance reform is the most important change we can make to restore public confidence in our democratic institutions."

Respondents to the Think City/Fair Voting BC survey supported basic campaign spending reform:

* 95.5 per cent of respondents said they supported campaign spending limits;

* 96.8 per cent said they wanted disclosure of donations given between campaign periods; and

* 93.3 per cent favoured limits on campaign contributions.

At the same time, survey respondents opposed certain proposals to expand the electorate:

* 80.1 per cent opposed allowing commercial property owners (who are not also residents) to vote;

* 76.7 per cent opposed allowing business owners (who are not also residents) to vote;

* 61.1 per cent opposed lowering the voting age to 16; and

* 51.7 per cent opposed compulsory voting.

"We want Minister Bill Bennett and the BC Liberal government to follow through on Premier Gordon Campbell's promise to run the most open, transparent and accountable government in Canada," Monckton said.

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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