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Votes, Money, and Cause & Effect

Posted on 16 March 2012

In the wake of it being disclosed that Prince George Mayor Shari Green had the most expensive campaign in city history (in which she spent more than all five Kamloops mayoral candidates combined [source]), there’s a small debate surrounding municipal elections and financing. Speaking to CBC, Councillor Brian Skakun made the following comments:

“It makes it so much tougher for the average person that wants to run for municipal office, that, you know, doesn’t have their own resources or can muster up that many donations.”

“At some point, I think that there has to be some sort of controls on this. There’s no limits for individual donations, corporate donations, union donations as I understand it, and I think… I think what I’m going to do is try and convince my council colleagues this year to come up with a of resolution and see if we can encourage the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the province to have some types of limits because it just seems to be getting out of control.”

This is one issue: should there be spending caps, so as not to price people out of running (or, in the case of the more conspiracy-minded, to avoid having anyone in anyone else’s deep pockets)?

On the other hand, this is private money, not taxpayer. And might it speak to a candidates’ ability to reach out to supporters, to convince people that they are the right person for the job, and have people support them not only with votes but with their own hard-earned cash?

In other words does it go:

raise money >> spend money on campaign  >> get popular as a result of spending money on campaign

OR

 get popular >> raise money because of popularity >> get votes for same reasons you got money (popularity)

It’s a question that has long been debated at provincial and federal levels, as well as in other (usually larger) municipalities, but hasn’t yet penetrated into the relatively small-town politics of Prince George. But if people are getting to elected to office with campaign budgets hitting the upper half of five figures, it’s a safe bet the discussion will be had.

Filed under: British Columbia, politics, Prince George

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