Vote on election donations spurs regional debate

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver | November 14, 2013 | Circulation: 280,000+

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A North Vancouver vote urging politicians to abstain from taking money from developers or labour unions is drawing mixed reviews from other Metro Vancouver civic leaders.

A Nov. 4 non-binding resolution carried 4-3 after it was proposed by Coun. Guy Heywood.

“It certainly bought attention to the issue,” Heywood said. “Your closest local, intimate level of government needs to try to be the cleanest, or at least the most transparent.”

Many local municipal politicians are pushing for changes to rein in campaign donations. But in the absence of reform from the B.C. government, which regulates local elections, other councillors in the region questioned the effectiveness of a voluntary motion like North Vancouver’s, and urged the city to join broader advocacy efforts to change the law.

“There’s no such thing as a voluntary rule,” said Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer. “Democracy depends on clearly understood rules that apply to all. That’s absolutely paramount.

“It’d be like playing a game with one side observing rules while the other side does not. You know how those rules turn out — the one doing whatever they want will always win.”

Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, however, applauded the North Vancouver vote even if it is only symbolic. He said he tried refusing union or corporate funds for two previous elections.

“I was quite successful in getting elected without them,” he said. “But the last election I gave up because I was the only one doing it. You’re up against huge volumes of money from everyone else.”

In Surrey, Coun. Barinder Rasode said while North Vancouver’s efforts send an important message, election reform must be “consistent across the region” otherwise it may create a false impression that some governments are more transparent than others.

“It’s really important that mandate come from the provincial government,” she said.

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