October 27, 2011
Whistler's election candidates are canvassing the community for donations to fuel their campaign spending but how much they raise or spend may not matter come ballot time.
If history is anything to go by, it's not how much candidates spend that counts in the minds of Whistler voters.
In the last three municipal elections the top campaign spenders - Dave Davenport's $27,000 in 2002, Ted Nebbeling's $40,000 in 2005 and Kristi Wells' $20,000 in 2008 - didn't secure the mayor's seat.
In the last two cases Ken Melamed spent half as much and won.
The same was true for council contenders. In the 2005 election Marianne Wade was the biggest spender for a council seat at $6,500. She did not win.
In the 2008 election Jack Compton topped out at $7,000. He too did not win.
Though Whistler's track record may say different, election spending can be critical in a campaign.
"It doesn't always matter (how much you spend)," said Simon Fraser University political science Professor Patrick Smith. "But I think it's fair to say that it often matters."
Smith estimates that $13 million was spent by municipal parties and candidates across B.C. three years ago. That doesn't include the money spent by third parties.
In Vancouver, candidates and parties spent $5.5 million. In Quesnel, a town of 10,000 people, candidates each spent about $20,000 for the mayor's run.
Usually advertising is one of the ways to get names into the minds of voters.
In small communities, however, people often know the candidates personally or through their work in other organizations.
"Money may not be the biggest factor in somebody that has a fairly long history of involvement," said Smith.
Still, tens of thousands of dollars will be spent in the community in the next five weeks as the political machine moves into full force in advance of November's election.
New mayoral candidate Brent McIvor said this week that he won't be accepting any donations, but will be relying heavily on social media to get his name, and his message, out to voters.
"I've always had a problem with money being given to candidates," adding that candidates don't have to disclose that donation information until March 2012, six months after the polls close.
"I'm passionate about that," said McIvor. "I just don't think in today's world, with the temptation of cronyism, that we accept that any longer."
He's not the only one.
Last year a provincial task force examining municipal elections called for a cap on how much money can be spent.