Campaign Finance Reform and Transparent Governance
There is an important discussion right now about campaign financing and the need to get big money out of politics at the local level. I appreciate Councillor Knack and Keren Tang’s leadership on this issue!
I think we need to go further than that to address the power imbalances in municipal politics.
It may start with a campaign donation, but real influence comes through ongoing relationships. Cultivating strong public relationship is is essential to good governance and decision making, but it needs to be balanced. The amount of time they can spend, means that larger organizations can frame the conversation. They have staff and lobbyists who are able to spend time on research, messaging and in meetings with Councillors and administration. Meetings between decision makers and stakeholders are important, but that time is finite. To understand the breadth of an issue, it is important that Councillors and policy makers spend time building relationships with a wide range of stakeholders. Every Councillor does meet with community members, non-profits, community groups etc. but how much time do they spend relative to those organizations and groups that can afford staff? It likely varies, but we simply don’t know. Relationships are important and powerful. Because of this, I have some additional proposals, beyond campaign finance reform, for adding transparency to municipal governance.
I would like to see the following changes made to our municipal governance, through the Local Authorities Elections Act and/or other mechanisms:
Ban corporate and union donations.
Set an election spending cap: I would like to see an election spending cap placed on municipal council campaigns, with a higher, but scaled cap, on mayoralty races.
Create a municipal lobbyist registry.
Explore options for regularly publishing a list of all meetings with external stakeholders.
In practical terms, I am facing an incumbent with almost $30000 in the bank, the vast majority of which came from corporate and union donations last election. I am currently raising funds relatively quickly and my expectation is that I will raise the bulk of our campaign funds through individual donations. I would encourage those interested in seeing more grassroots funded campaigns to give generously to candidates who they support!
I will commit to publishing my donations over $100 before the election and to finding a mechanism to publicly track my meetings once elected.