Tuesday, May 20, 2014

EDITORIAL: Silly season

MAY 16, 2014 12:00 AM

In case you can't tell, election season is upon us.

With six months until the next municipal election, candidates are
 declaring their campaigns, seeking supporters (financial and electoral)
 and council meetings are stretching on into the night so
everyone can make sure their point has been made. Repeatedly.
On the matter of campaign finance, if you're the candidate
 asking for the money, there are a few things you should know.
A look at our last election's results and campaign finance
disclosure forms will show that you probably can't get on
 council without spending a dime but you can spend in to
 the tens of thousands of dollars and still be relegated to
 watching council from the gallery.
One thing is for sure, though. If you take the money from
a union, developer or business, be prepared to hear about it.
 Be prepared to explain why it doesn't put you into a conflict
 of interest. The law is on your side but that will never be
 enough in the court of public opinion if you're voting on an
 issueyour financial backers have an interest in - and especially
 so if that issue is unpopular in segments of the community.
The sad part in this is that we must write an editorial along
 the lines of "We'd rather you not take questionable donations, 
" instead of one congratulating the province on changing the
 campaign finance laws to limit spending and restrict who can 
donate andhow much they're allowed to offer.
Despite it being one of the top wishes out of the 2013 review
of election rules, the province put ifoff until 2017.
© North Shore News


Anonymous said...

On the topic of accepting donations from developers and big labour there is a major divide between CNV and DNV.

During the last election CNV Mayor, his sidekick Craig Keating and other successful candidates took substantial campaign donations from unions and developers. To a reasonable voter this seems like a major conflict. The Mayor and council ratify the CUPE union contract agreements. They approve major developments. Somehow this situation seems to be OK with the majority of City voters as these folks get (re)elected.

In DNV 2 candidates ran with union donations and both were trounced. Different standards in DNV?

One hopes that the campaign funding can be highlighted in the local media BEFORE the election so that voters can consider if they want to vote for a candidate that thinks accepting this money is OK.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see if the union/developer council members will even get into a discussion. The response when questioned has always been it's not illegal, and they look terribly affronted that the question or suggestion that they recuse themselves from a vote would even be suggested.

Barry Rueger said...

If you truly believe that politicians' actions are significantly swayed by campaign donations, then you should just put your money where your mouth is.

If a couple hundred "concerned citizens" each tossed in a thousand bucks you too could sway opinion and get your own way.

It's worth remembering that all of these big evil campaign donations tend to be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, not millions.

Hardly enough to really lock in a Council member for life.

Does anyone here think that we'll see a flurry of large campaign donations from the anti-development crowd? Will the people photocopying all of those flyers step up and help finance candidates that they think will vote the way that they want?

I highly doubt it.

Anonymous said...

So all the private citizens must be blackmailed to "pony up" or their elected representatives will punish them by making approvals contrary to their best interests? What an absurd argument.

The major campaign donations to the City candidates totalled to the tens of thousands - not hundreds of dollars.

If you really believe that a major donor doesn't receive additional consideration then you don't understand politics.

Ernie Crist received donations from the CUPE union for years. One evening he didn't vote in favour of the union's position and he was advised the next day that unless he rethought his perspective he no longer would be receiving campaign donations. Ernie, being Ernie, said fine - and the donations ceased.

He got the message and so did the union.

Anonymous said...

As far as I know Ernie Crist never took donations from developers, only unions and others.

I find it a conflict when candidates take donations from both, but I believe that has a lot to do with municipal staffs being unionized.

Anonymous said...

It is a matter of record that Ernie took donations from the unions. They ended when he failed to vote the right way.

What does that say about those politicians who continue to take union donations? What are the expectations from those giving the $$$? What is the response of those elected? The general approach to conflict of interest in government is that if it looks like a conflict to Joe Average then don't do it.

Just because the courts let politicians get away with it doesn't make it right.

Anonymous said...

Municipal politicians in the DNV have very little to do with approving increases in the CUPE contract. Yes they ratify the agreements, but the agreements are set through pattern bargaining in the region. If community A gets a 1.25% Communities B, C, and D, decide they can live with that increase, then it becomes extremely difficult to negotiate outside of that pattern. The term and wages are set early on and then it becomes more localized on working conditions and table issues such as vacation usage, sick day policy, family welfare programs etc. All this to say, union contributions have very little impact on the main goalposts of the contracts. However, Union donations may affect contracting out of services, creating new positions, bumping up wage classifications etc.

Union, Corporate and Developer contributions should be banned at all levels of government.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Anon 2:13's last sentence.

However, councils don't always ratify agreements that have already been through regional bargaining. Just this week it was released that Delta negotiated on their own and their COUNCIL ratified a 20% firefighter wage increase over 8 years. This is the first fire wage settlement in the lower mainland during this round of bargaining and other cities will be sucked into this very generous amount whether they like it or not.

Repeat, an individual council ratified this decision without regional consensus and it is the first settlement in the region for this group and will set a trend.

In 2006 Richmond broke ranks and their COUNCIL ratified a very rich agreement that the other munis did not want but got saddled with as their council set the pace and no arbitrator had the spine to roll it back.

Every council has the potential to ratify whatever they agree to. Maybe somewhere down the pattern bargaining food chain and maybe something else right out of the gate.

It is unwise to trivialize council's ability to enrich their union members and even more distasteful for council members to accept contributions from groups under their authority.

Anonymous said...

Let's get out there this time Folks! Tell the people of the DNV that they have a voice on November 15. Talk to everyone you know, we must have more than a 21 Percent voter turnout this time.

Lisa Muri was a very good start at Monday's meeting. I think she finally gets it.

Bill and Dot Bell said...

It may not be a legal conflict of interest, but in my view it is a question of ethics. In a recent conversation with mayor Darrell Mussatto, he asked me whether i will be accepting Union donations as I had in the past. I answered no, that upon reflection my ethics would not allow me to do it even though as he pointed out, it was not illegal. His response was "that is your ethics, not mine."
Quite true...it is my ethics that will stop me from taking donations from Cupe, developers who will have projects come before council during the four years, as well contractors who do business with the City. I will also promise to recluse myself from any council business that any major donator stands to profit from (other than in general issues such a general levies of taxation and such). I would also suggest that rather than waiting until after the election to see who donated what to whom, that candidates post in a public way the list of donators as they become available. I know I will be doing exactly that..

Anonymous said...

Legal or not, perception is everything. Keep money out of politics (at every level).