Local Election Reform
The B.C. government has recently made changes to local elections legislation that governs elections for municipal offices (mayor and councilors), electoral area directors, some park boards, the Islands Trust, and Boards of Education.
During a local election year over 1660 elected positions are filled, providing elected representation to over 250 government bodies.
In May 2010, the Local Government Elections Task Force provided the Province of BC and the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) with 31 recommendations for improvements to local elections to: ensure accountability, enhance transparency, strengthen compliance and enforcement, increase accessibility, and expand education and advice. More information on the origin and purpose of the Task Force, as well as the recommendations, can be found in the Report of the Local Government Elections Task Force.
Most of the Task Force’s recommendations were implemented through the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) passed by the Legislative Assembly in Spring 2014. Given the significant changes introduced for the 2014 local elections, government decided not to implement recommended expense limits for 2014 but for the next general local elections in 2018.
In Spring 2016, amendments to LECFA established limits on spending by candidates, elector organizations and third party advertising sponsors during the campaign period (the 29-day period up to and including General Voting Day). Expense limits for candidates and elector organizations follow a consistent formula that is generally based on the population of a community. These changes will be in effect for the 2018 general local elections. Expense limit amounts, including spending limits for third party advertising sponsors, will be published by Elections BC no later than May 31st of the year of a general local election.
In Fall 2017, amendments to LECFA banned organizations (such as unions and corporations), and individuals who are not British Columbia residents, from providing contributions to candidates, elector organizations, and third party advertising sponsors. The amendments also established limits on contributions made to candidates and elector organizations. Contributions made to the election campaigns of a candidate or elector organization are now limited to $1,200 per donor per year. This means that one donor’s total contributions to the election campaign for an elector organization and all of its endorsed candidates cannot exceed $1,200 per year. As an exception, during 2018, unendorsed candidates can contribute up to $2,400 to their own election campaigns and endorsed candidates can contribute an additional $1,200 – in total – to the election campaign of their endorsing elector organization. These changes are retroactive to October 31, 2017, and will apply to all local elections starting with the 2018 general local elections.
In Spring 2018, an additional change made it very clear that operational expenses of a “continuing” elector organization are considered “election expenses” during election and campaign periods. A “continuing” elector organization is generally an elector organization that is most like a civic political party and operates over the years in sequential local elections with a primary purpose being to advance the election of their endorsed candidates. This change applies to all local elections moving forward from April 27, 2018.
For more information on campaign financing rules in local elections, contact Elections BC or visit:
Further information about local governments and elections: