The best democracy money can buy

Photo by Urban Mixer

Under B.C. law, it’s perfectly legit for candidates for municipal office to accept unlimited sums of money from unions, corporations and non-citizens.  The only requirement is disclosure.  So as long as it’s reported, there’s no stopping anyone — from Osama bin Laden to Kevin Bacon — from making a donation.

In Vancouver, the parties spent over $5-million to compete for the right to govern.  Non-voting entities happily greased the campaigns.  By “greased” I mean nothing untoward.  The law was followed.  The problem is the law.  It makes sell-outs of every party.  Even parties that don’t want to be sell-outs.

Pretty much every business regulated by the city gave money — bars, restaurants, developers.  Some of the big boys, like Concord Pacific, swung both ways.  They gave $35,000 to Vision Vancouver and around $12,000 to the NPA.  Bob Rennie gifted $35,000 in advertising to the NPA.  Meanwhile, Rennie Marketing Systems handed $1,000 to Vision.

Financial disclosures are posted online by the City of Vancouver.  The documents are posted as submitted.  They’re very poorly formatted and there’s no consistency.  Vision’s doc is alphabetical.  The NPA disclosure is chronological but it breaks out into special sections for payment method.  Incredibly, Rob (“Fear the NDP Bolsheviks”) Macdonald made one of his donations via Paypal.  I like this guy even more.

Hat tip to Frances Bula for the link to the disclosure docs.  If you’re a geek for city politics, you need to be reading her excellent blog.

Photo credit: Urban Mixer

4 Responses to “The best democracy money can buy”

  1. jesse Says:

    So who is the city really working for?

  2. dingus Says:

    Well, politicians work exclusively for politicians. T’was ever thus. Which is why, as ch is suggesting, tight rules around campaign financing are needed. Not just disclosure.

    And Frances Bula runs a great little blog (though I think your link is wrong?). I started reading when the Millenium thing was hitting the fan. Imagine, a reporter that asks questions, digs for facts and thinks. Weird.

  3. condohype Says:

    Thanks for the alerting me to the dead link, dingus. It should be good now. Reform is desperately needed for municipal elections. The current system isn’t in the interests of democracy. To their credit, the NPA and Vision Vancouver agree change is needed. Hopefully the provincial parties take a stand on the issue in the May election. (Municipal elections are governed by the province.)

  4. dingus Says:

    …. boy, nothing like the issue of campaign finance reform to get the comments pouring in, eh?

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