New provincial legislation introduced recently aims to put people back at the centre of community politics.
The reforms to campaign finance announced Oct. 30 will limit the influence of big money on local elections by banning corporate and union donations, putting limits on individual contributions ($1,200 per donor, per year) and banning out-of-province donations at the local level.
"Really, the intent here is to level the playing fields, so that anyone who wants to run for a local government elected position will be starting from the same spot," said Wendy Booth, Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) president.
"The long-term impact is going to be that, hopefully, we'll have people that run for elected positions in local government that are running and get elected because of their values and their policies as opposed to who has the deepest pockets."
The conversation began with the City of Vancouver, and has been endorsed by the UBCM membership since 2015, Booth said.
The hope is that the ban will be in place before the next round of municipal elections in October 2018.
"I think this has been something that the UBCM at the local level has been asking for, and the provincial government has heard that and they've taken steps to put it in place in a fairly quick timeline," Booth said.
As it currently stands, there are no bans or limits to donations in municipal elections.
While the new legislation will likely have the biggest impact on campaigns in larger population centres, smaller campaigns like those seen in Whistler will have to adjust as well.
The legislation likely wouldn't have had much effect on Whistler's 2014 election.
According to campaign finance disclosure statements, two elected councillors received small corporate donations in 2014 — Sue Maxwell (a total of $350 from two companies) and Andree Janyk ($200 from two companies).
None of Whistler's current mayor and council received donations exceeding $1,200 from a single donor, and no one spent more than $2,000 on the campaign. (While he listed no donations, Coun. Jack Crompton contributed $1,209.03 to his own campaign, including $767.20 for "Vote Jack" hats; Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden spent a grand total of $0 on her re-election campaign. The 2014 documents can be found at: www.contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/Options.aspx).
The proposed new rules would only have had a slightly larger role in Whistler's 2011 vote.
Wilhelm-Morden received $14,450 in campaign contributions en route to her mayoral victory, including $2,550 from six corporations (but no individual contributions over $1,200).
While some of the other councillors elected in 2011 received small corporate donations, none of their total contributions exceeded the $1,650 raised by Crompton that year, and none received more than $1,200 from a single donor.
The 2011 campaign finance disclosure statements are not available online, but can be viewed in-person at municipal hall.
Campaign finance disclosure statements for Whistler's 2017 byelection will be available on the Elections BC website the week of Jan. 29, 2018.