Written By Sharon G.K. Singh, James Struthers, David Bursey and Milos Barutciski
The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) held their annual convention between September 25 and September 28, 2017, discussing several policies and reforms, including election and lobbying reform at the municipal level. The UBCM is a union of more than 150 municipalities, respective regional districts, and First Nations in British Columbia. This year's convention theme, 'Roots to Results', touched on the recognition of municipal influence on policy matters within provincial and federal jurisdiction.
Resolutions Addressing Elections and Lobbying
Several resolutions touching on municipal elections and lobbying were tabled and endorsed at the 2017 UBCM Convention. The resolutions propose changes to municipal laws on elections and lobbying, that align with recently proposed provincial reforms limiting campaign financing and instituting tighter restrictions and licensing requirements for lobbyists.
At the 2017 convention, the UBCM endorsed resolutions that would:
- limit municipal campaign financing;
- institute a recall process for elected municipal officials restrict nomination and election of an employee of an improvement district to the board of their improvement district employer;
- amend campaign financing rules and restrictions to differentiate between communities with more or less than 2,000 voters; and
- permit municipalities the power to register and regulate lobbyists.
Current State of Affairs
The convention minutes set out the current state of affairs in British Columbia, and the reasons for the proposed reform, noting that:
- There are no limits on election campaign donations or restrictions on corporate or union donations for municipal elections, which is out of touch with the express commitments of all main provincial political parties to limit campaign contributions by corporate and union donations.
- The term of office for local government officials in British Columbia was recently extended, and the resolutions noted that the lack of ability of municipal residents to voice their opinions through election erodes their democratic rights.
- There are currently no restrictions on the appointment of an improvement district employee to the board of that improvement district, which is out of touch with municipal rules generally, which restrict the election or nomination of an employee of a municipality or regional district to the board.
- There are currently no differences in the campaign financing and advertising rules depending on the size of the community.
- There is currently no registration or regulation scheme for municipal lobbyists, which is out of touch with the increasingly stringent scheme governing lobbyists at the provincial level.
How Will the Resolutions Affect Reform?
How the province will respond to these resolutions remains to be seen. If implemented, these changes may have a substantial impact on the ability of private stakeholders to influence municipal policymaking. Given the influence of UBCM and its respective members on provincial elections, the endorsed UBCM resolutions carry heavy political weight.
We will continue to provide updates as potential reforms to political finance and lobbying unfold.