Changes to local election laws under review 

Goal is for more transparency before 2014 municipal elections

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Sweeping changes to local elections laws have been laid out in a white paper by Coralee Oakes, the minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

British Columbians have until Oct. 23 to review the proposals and offer comments. The proposed Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) will be introduced in the spring of 2014, prior to next fall's municipal elections.

A spokesperson for the ministry said that these proposals were only for local elections and not provincial elections, the most recent of which took place on May 14, 2013.

Highlights of the white paper include: Disclosure and registration by third-party advertisers, sponsorship information requirements for all election advertising, all campaign finance disclosure statements to be filed in 90 days rather than 120 following an election, banning anonymous contributions, and enabling a key role for Elections BC in the compliance and enforcement of campaign finance rules in municipal elections.

As well, all sponsorship contributions and the value of third-party advertising must be disclosed and significant contributors of $100 or more must be identified.

Candidates and elector organizations election advertising must have sponsorship identification, authorization statement and contact details. They must also record campaign period expenses.

Third-party advertising sponsors must register with Elections BC before sponsoring any election advertising.

"We want the transition to the new rules to be as smooth as possible for local elections participants and those considering running for local government, so they understand their campaign finance responsibilities and obligations — that's why we're releasing the White Paper now," Oakes said in a release.

Pollster Gord Addison, who has worked on at least half a dozen municipal campaigns in Squamish, and was most recently co-campaign manager of Pemberton mayor Jordan Sturdy's successful bid to become the regional MLA, said these changes are important for transparency.

"Having everyone confident that the system has integrity, that people aren't buying elections is good," he said. "The flipside is that if you are looking at a COPE or NPA party or Vision Vancouver organization, they are a lot different from someone who decides to toss their hat into the ring in Squamish or Whistler."

Addison felt unaffiliated candidates without the resources of a large political party behind them might be discouraged by the added rules and paperwork.

The white paper can be viewed at www.localgovelectionreform.gov.bc.ca

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