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Election reform bill tabled

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes introduced legislation Wednesday that will support greater transparency and accountability in local government elections.

Oakes has tabled two bills to modernize local election campaign finance rules and introduce further changes to local elections.

The new legislation, announced last month, responds to the majority of recommendations made by the joint B.C.-Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Local Government Elections Task Force.

The new Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) makes significant reforms to campaign finance rules that, if passed, include:

  • Requiring candidates to file campaign finance disclosure statements within 90 days, rather than 120, following an election.
  • Ensuring candidate campaign disclosures are published online.
  • Ensuring the sponsorship information is published on all election advertisements.
  • Requiring third-party advertising sponsors to register and disclose their expenditures.
  • Establishing a new compliance and enforcement role for Elections BC.

The Local Elections Statutes Amendment Act (LESAA) is a companion piece to the campaign finance legislation establishing how election participants will transition to the new campaign finance rules.

The act also makes further changes to local elections by:

  • Extending the terms of office for local elected officials from three to four years.
  • Moving the general voting day from November to October, beginning in 2018.

In 2010, the joint B.C.-UBCM Local Government Elections Task Force made 31 recommendations to modernize local elections, including incorporation of local election campaign finance rules into one act.

The legislation will apply to elected officials in municipalities, regional districts, the Islands Trust, parks boards and school boards.

If passed, the legislation will take effect for upcoming general local elections on Nov. 15, 2014.

The legislation follows an extensive consultation process with local governments and key stakeholders. In September 2013, a white paper was published outlining the proposed new campaign finance reforms.

During consultations, some stakeholders expressed opposition to a complete ban on anonymous contributions.

Given this feedback, the current rules that permit modest anonymous contributions of $50 or less will be maintained.

This requirement will also apply to third-party advertisers effective immediately. Government also consulted local governments and key stakeholders about campaign expense limits, as part of a phased approach to local government elections reform.

As part of this process, expense limits would be introduced in time for the next general local elections following 2014.

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