Politics should be about the best ideas, not the most money

Post Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Friends,we need to make major changes to the way we fund our city elections. In thelast ten years, we’ve had our fair share of million-dollar-campaigns that oftensqueeze out the good ideas and good candidates that have less money behind them. And if money is what it takes to have your voice heard over your opponents, our democracy has a serious problem.

A healthy democracy means that challengers have a fighting chance to take on theincumbents even if they don’t have a massive war chest.

As a candidate, I spoke about the need for tough, new rules for campaignfinancing—rules I voluntarily stuck to myself. As an elected official, it’stime to make these rules a reality.

That’s why I recently sent a personal letter to Minister Hector Goudreau and Premier Ed Stelmach with a recommendation for changes to the Local Authorities Election Act that will dramatically improve municipal electionsin Alberta by leveling the playing field for all candidates. Those proposed changes are:

· Allowing donations only within one year of the municipal election
o Currently donations can be made anytime

· Lowering the maximum financial contribution to $2500
o Currently the limit is $5000 per year

· Imposing limits on spending to 65 cents per resident for Mayoralty and Councilor elections, initially, growing with inflation
    o Currently there is no spending limit

· Mandating that campaign surpluses be given to the municipality, returned to donors, or donated to charity after each election
o Currently campaign surpluses can becarried over to future elections or be donated

· Requiring disclosure of all donations prior to the election
o Currently disclosure is only requiredfollowing the election

For more detail on each of these recommendations and theproblems they solve, please read my discussion paper on the topic.

During the previous election, I voluntarily adopted much more stringent rules than required by law, and should the provincial government fail to act (and I choose to run for re-election) I will follow similar self-imposed restrictions I abided by in the last election.

In particular, I am not fundraising for a re-election bid; should I chose to run, I would not fundraise until a year prior to an election.

We must do something to improve campaign financing in our province. These improvements will raise the quality of discussion about ourfuture and let those good candidates with great ideas fight on a more level playing field.

Whatever your opinion on this matter, please contact your MLA and let them know what you think. It’s now up to the provincialgovernment to enact these changes that will benefit us all.

- Mayor Naheed Nenshi