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City defers election bylaw
New rules could force candidates to disclose campaign contributions

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 27, 2012

City council has deferred a decision to create an elections bylaw which would allow the municipality to set out rules on how it runs elections for the first time in its history.

The issue was considered during Monday's municipal services committee, but council decided to wait until the next committee meeting on July 23.

The territorial government amended the Local Authority Elections Act last August, giving municipalities 11 new abilities to control how local elections take place. Among the new powers municipalities have is the ability to require candidates to disclose campaign donations and to provide a means other than a proxy voter in which a voter can vote while being absent on election day. Of the latter point, voters potentially will be able to vote in the office of the returning officer in order to maintain a secret ballot.

"There was no policy or terms of reference or guidelines included in that bylaw, so we couldn't make a decision on it at this point," said city councillor Bob Brooks. He noted most councillors seemed to agree on the need for more accountability and clearer rules in time for October's municipal election.

"We wanted to do this in July because the election notices go out in August and you always want people to understand the rules before they go into it," Brooks said.

Coun. Mark Heyck said more clarity and transparency will bring municipal elections in line with rules that exist in federal and territorial elections.

"I think it is great and it has been long recognized by other orders of government that you need to be transparent in how your decision makers are elected," said Heyck.

"A big part of that is financial disclosure and how and where people are raising their money. "

Council is also saying they would like administration to "flesh out" the proposed bylaw a little further when it comes to ramifications for non-compliance. Currently, there are no penalties for candidates who fail to write a financial report or even rules on what such a report should look like.

"That whole area hasn't seen any progress in defining it like federal or territorial elections," said Coun. David Wind.

"So councillors wanted a bit more time to consider the matter and for the city clerk to do a bit more research with the territorial elections people."

Wind said there is uncertainty whether, for example, there should be limits on financial contributions and how disclosure would be carried out.

"With the issue of disclosure, one of the things I would like to see is the ability to write a tax receipt," said Wind.

Coun. Paul Falvo, who plans to run for mayor this fall, said he fully supports changes, which are long overdue, he said. The only rules he has had to follow in the past have had to do with when he takes down and puts up election signs.

"I think it is an important thing to do because right now it is like the Thunderdome in that there are really few rules," he said, adding increased accountability would be beneficial.

"I could be financed by the mob and not have to tell anybody."

Falvo said an elections bylaw will provide a "level playing field" where all candidates will be expected to disclose campaign contributions and allow for people to give tax receipts.

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