Perennial candidate for council and the House of Assembly, Simon Lono has eloquently and vociferously campaigned for electoral finance reform in city elections. Unfortunately, campaigns of ideas do not seem to be rewarded to the extent they should be.
In fairness, Lono may have offered a more detailed platform but councilors Dave Lane and Bernard Davis have been advocating for municipal electoral reform and transparency for donations to individual campaigns. Davis posted his expenses and donations, on-line, for his 2013 campaign. That speaks volumes of his integrity and commitment to reform.
Cash is king, he (I say he because it seems to a be a male bastion at the moment) who raises the most, can spend the most creating an unfair playing field (limit is $80,000)
There have been a few baby steps towards increased increased accountability over the years -candidates have o declare the total amount of donations received, and name the donor of greater than $250. There are individual contribution limits of $1,000 per candidate, and corporations can give up to $2,000.
I was really pleased to learn that the city council has made another enhancement along the bumpy road of electoral finance reform. The City has approved a by-law that will ensure that candidates must detail how much they spend, in addition to publishing how much they raise.
Municipal candidates in St. John's have a spending limit of $80.000, which I feel is a much larger roadblock to individuals running for local office than making the " auditing process too onerous".
I would like to see lower limits on total spending, posting of donations above $100, lower corporate donation caps, some sort of public subsidy program to assist individuals interested in running and more effective forums for communicating policies during campaigns - all in an effort to level the playing field.
The public deserves transparency - who pays for these campaigns? What special interests are at play - if any? With millions of dollars at play for construction projects, special services, contracted services and zoning changes - former financial support can - and some would argue does - impact how some councilors might vote.
All in all, it would appear council is in favor of transparency and accountability.