Would you like to know exactly who has helped finance the election campaigns of your city councillors and mayor? Would you like to know just how much cash came from whom?
Would you like to know if campaign donations are having an effect on how city council makes decisions? Or are you willing to trust that our civic politicians always do the right thing and do not feel obligated to those who have supported them financially?
Civic campaign contribution information has been available since 1993, when the city required all donations of more than $300 to be reported. However, that information is not vetted by anyone and there are no limits on how much can be donated. Donations to civic election campaigns are not tax deductible so no tax receipts for donations have to be issued. As a result, there is no way of accurately determining if all donations were reported.
In addition, it is pretty easy to get around the donation disclosure rules. Here’s one way it can be done. If you have a business and you are running for city council, all a donor who doesn’t want to be identified has to do is ask you to send them an invoice for services rendered. Your company can then donate to your election campaign. Doing that will make it look like you supported your own campaign and the actual donor will never be identified. How does that sit with you?
When you look at whom the big donors are two things become readily apparent. The biggest money comes from developers and civic unions. In other situations that would clearly be seen as a conflict of interest. How those donations affect the decisions of city councillors is anybody’s guess.
It’s possible that our councillors and mayor would make themselves absent from any discussion involving a major contributor who has been publicly identified. I’m not suggesting there is anything untoward going on, but the kind of oversight being proposed by the provincial government would make me feel a lot more comfortable.
Apparently, the mayor has taken great umbrage with the provincial government. His position is that local governments should have been consulted before a decision was made. I guess he means they should have been consulted in the same way Edmonton’s taxpayers were consulted before the city spent $2 million of our tax dollars on a failed bid for Universiade.