Five hundred and sixty-two days since our last municipal election. Though it seems a far memory; there are still important issues that have not been addressed. In the last election, many people were demanding election reform with discussion centering around campaign finance reform and term limits but to name a few. Many candidates even made pledges to hold their campaigns to a higher bar of transparency and ethics. Since, our new regional council has been elected there has been little talk of electoral reform.
As residents of Halifax, we should all be deeply concerned by this fact. It is no secret that business and partisan groups can, and do have strong influences into municipal campaigns/governance in our city. Other levels of government have clear, defined campaign rules; however we continue to be plagued by 20th century old boy’s club politics in Halifax. We deserve better in our city, and we must hold our elected officials to a higher level. During my 2012 campaign, I made the choice quite early on in my campaign that I would only accept donations from individuals: no unions, no business. While, I admit that on the financial side it was hard, nevertheless it was the right thing to do. Being an elected official is, in my opinion, opting to do what is in the best interest of the people you are privileged to represent.
Campaign and electoral reform is not going to happen in Halifax, unless we the people push for it. The start reality is that elected officials are distracted and simply electoral/campaign reform is not in their best interest. It is up to us Halifax to demand better! I move that we push for the following changes to how municipal campaigns are run in Halifax:
· Donations from special interest groups (unions, advocacy groups, resident associations etc) are banned.
· Donations from businesses are banned.
· Donations from individuals are capped:
2,000 for individuals running for a school board position
5,000 for individuals running for a councillor position
15,000 for individuals running for the mayoral seat.
· Candidates be permitted to only contribute the following to their own campaign:
o 1,000 for school board
o 7,000 for councillor candidates
o 12,000 for mayoral candidates
· All donations will be disclosed regardless of amount or in-kind value.
· Detailed records of how the money was spent recorded with the Chief Returning Office post-election.
· Monies remaining in campaign accounts would be donated to an approved local charity from a list provided by the Chief Returning Officer to the candidate’s official agent.
· Term limits: Any individual may not exceed a 3 terms on council, whether consecutive or not.
· Elected Official accountability: Residents would have the ability to recall councillors, mayor for non-confidence, poor adherence to sound municipal management, poor fiscal management.
Campaign and electoral reform will not happen in Halifax, unless we are all in as citizens. Regional council will most likely not initiate these changes on their own; they are our elected officials: we must do our best to hold them accountable.
Democracy is a participatory sport.