Last weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver City Hall: Take big money out of civic campaigns

Forgive me for the lack of recent posts other than my columns; summer is here and there are many other things to do in the warm summer evening than sit and blog on a hot sweaty desk chair….I’ll post soon and there are several things I want to write about.

For now, this was Thursday’s column in 24Hrs Vancouver, which you may find relevant even in your hometown.

Since taking on the City Hall column and paying greater attention to municipal affairs across the region, there is one concern readers have shared with me that is common to every city in Metro Vancouver.

From Vancouver and Surrey to North Vancouver and White Rock, there is a growing concern that developers are wielding too much influence in city halls.

In Vancouver, real estate developers and marketers have been under scrutiny for their role and contribution to the city’s affordable housing issue.

In Surrey, both developers and the city have frequently been under fire for not only the city’s illegal suite problem, but for rapidly building high-density housing without thought to the impact on local infrastructure like schools, health care and parking.

Even the tiny city of White Rock isn’t exempt — a contentious proposal currently in the works to build two highrises requires an amendment to the Official Community Plan in order to build it. Now under scrutiny by the locals are the past campaign contributions the development group has made to the mayor and several councillors.

But if you were to ask your local city council if campaign contributions have any influence on proposals before council, I guarantee you will get a resounding — and likely offended — “No!” as an answer.

To voters, it’s a perception of conflict of interest and it’s easy to see why it’s an ongoing concern for residents.

Developers who’ve given hefty donations to municipal campaigns and then bring matters before council for approval raise serious questions to the validity of the entire process. That’s why so many advocates in favour of electoral reform were disappointed to see the final committee report on Local Elections Expense Limits recently presented to provincial MLAs in the legislature.

While the report makes recommendations limiting the amount candidates and slates can spend in local elections, it does nothing to address the bigger issue of limiting the dollar amount of contributions in the first place, or banning corporate and union donations.

With civic election turnouts appallingly low and cynicism towards both politicians and political process at an all-time high, these changes are critical.

The integrity of both civic elections, and city hall process and planning, must be protected to restore faith with voters. And the best way to do that is to take big corporations, big unions and their big money out of it.

4 thoughts on “Last weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver City Hall: Take big money out of civic campaigns

  1. I agree with your ‘point of view’ mostly. I don’t think MONEY (subtly, openly or under-the-table donated) should play the slightest role in government but I disagree that only developers are the problem. They are not. They are just like any business. They add up the costs, add profit and sell to whomever will buy. A bigger part of the problem is ‘the costs’. Land costs are ridiculous and ‘time’ costs with local governments run into the years depending on the density. Wanna do something big? Write off five years of your life. Hell, getting permits to build a house in a zone that permits it to be built can take over a year. That more architects and developers DON’T commit suicide surprises me. Developers are cut from the LIBERAL PARTY cloth – that part is true as a rule. They use capitalism to gain an advantage and to ‘beat’ others. Listen to Trump for five minutes if you can stomach it. They are uber competitive. And they think that it is a good Gordon Gekko Greed kinda thing. It is not. It is a bad thing. But it is the thing we are all playing at and most of us are losing. The problem is the greed-first game we are playing. NOT the players. So – my point is that developers are NOT inherently bad. It is the housing business that is all wrong.

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  2. E. Olson

    I couldn’t agree more about limiting the amount of money raised by civic campaigners. White Rock is not the only municipality that needs scrutiny of political funders.

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  3. nonconfidencevote

    Its not only the developers influencing politicians…….try suffering through any Global tv ‘News Hour” and the incessant pro govt advertisements (paid for by the lowly taxpayers) that turn most tv shows into mere interruptions for the never ending propaganda for what ever sitting govt is pay for it.
    Big money influencing tv.
    Joseph Goebbels would be proud.
    Who says propaganda is dead.

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