COLUMN: Positive trends in municipal campaign spending

There were two positive trends in candidate spending on municipal election campaigns in both Surrey and White Rock in October’s election.

The winning candidates did not spend the most, and spending was down significantly from the 2014 campaign. Both trends are very good news.

The reduction in overall spending is a direct result of new campaign finance rules brought in by the current provincial government. Contributions were restricted to a maximum of $1,200 from individuals, after Oct. 31, 2017. No longer could businesses, which in this area of B.C. usually means developers or unions, contribute to election campaigns.

As a result, Surrey First, the dominant group in Surrey which elected all nine council members in 2014 and 2011, managed to raise just over $817,000 for its campaign.Financial disclosure documents reveal that some of that amount ($387,500) was raised before the finance rules changed.

What did Surrey First get for its money? It was defeated resoundingly, with every incumbent councillor turfed – including those who ran with Surrey First and those who split away to run with Integrity Now. Only newcomer Linda Annis was elected to council.

Safe Surrey Coalition, meanwhile, managed to raise roughly $250,000 – less than one-third of what Surrey First brought in.

Elections BC documents reveal Safe Surrey raised $167,180 of that prior to the new rules taking effect.

Safe Surrey Coalition elected Mayor Doug McCallum and seven of the eight councillors.

The same thing happened in White Rock. White Rock Coalition, which ran the campaigns of Grant Meyer for mayor, three other incumbent councillors for council and three newcomers, spent almost four times as much as Democracy Direct. Every one of their candidates lost. The Coalition spent just over $96,000; Democracy Direct spent just over $24,600.

Democracy Direct elected all five of its candidates – Mayor Darryl Walker and four councillors. The other two councillors elected, Helen Fathers and David Chesney, were independent incumbents and managed to place one-two in the polls. Fathers spent just under $3,500 and Chesney spent $4,428.

In both cities, there was definitely an anti-incumbent mood. Arrogance had reigned – particularly in the offices of the mayors. While neither former mayor sought re-election, candidates associated with them in the past definitely were punished by voters.

Much of the angst in both cities was over development-related issues, although in Surrey, the two biggest issues were what type of rapid transit line to build, and what form policing should take in the future.

It was a fascinating election, and it is likely future elections will follow the pattern set in 2018. Spending restrictions and four-year terms change the dynamics of municipal elections considerably.

In other news about past councillors, former Surrey mayor Bill Vogel passed away Feb. 1 at the age of 87. Vogel served as alderman (councillor) from 1972-77, as part of the dominant Surrey Voters Association slate. He was then elected mayor as the SVA candidate in November, 1977, beating controversial mayor Ed McKitka.

He served just one term. He did not like the spotlight and time demands put on mayors. He was a longtime Air Canada pilot and thoroughly enjoyed flying.

Afterwards, he served as board chair of Surrey Credit Union (later Surrey Metro Savings) at a critical time in its history, and did a superb job in strengthening it on many fronts. It is now part of Coast Capital Savings, still a credit union and still headquartered in Surrey.

In other news about past councillors, former Surrey mayor Bill Vogel passed away Feb. 1 at the age of 87. Vogel served as alderman (councillor) from 1972-77, as part of the dominant Surrey Voters Association slate. He was then elected mayor as the SVA candidate in November, 1977, beating controversial mayor Ed McKitka.

He served just one term. He did not like the spotlight and time demands put on mayors. He was a longtime Air Canada pilot and thoroughly enjoyed flying.

Afterwards, he served as board chair of Surrey Credit Union (later Surrey Metro Savings) at a critical time in its history, and did a superb job in strengthening it on many fronts. It is now part of Coast Capital Savings, still a credit union and still headquartered in Surrey.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca – email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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