Campaign costs from the May 9 provincial election – made public last week – reveal that outspending your competitors doesn’t guarantee victory at the polls.
In Surrey-Panorama, New Democrat Jinny Sims (with campaign expenses of $100,521) handily defeated BC Liberal Punheet Sandhar, who outspent Sims by more than $70,000. And in Surrey-Fleetwood, then-cabinet minister Peter Fassbender spent $317,000; NDP victor Jagrup Brar won the seat spending $96,000.
These victories seem to be the exception that proves the rule – troubling on many grounds – that gaining public office is an expensive proposition. Successful BC Liberal MLA Tracy Redies, for example, claimed Surrey-White Rock while more than tripling the amount spent on the campaign by nearest rival Niovi Patsicakis of the NDP ($76,215 against $23,858). Fellow BC Liberal Stephanie Cadieux spent $68,037 in Surrey South, well over three times the $19,960 spent by her closest competitor, NDP Jonathan Silveira. BC Liberal Marvin Hunt’s outlay of $83,308 in Surrey-Cloverdale won over the $4,860 outlay of NDP Rebecca Smith.It’s also informative to note what unsuccessful candidates spent in their attempts to make a dent in the political process.
Independent Tom Bryant spent $9,308 in Surrey-White Rock, while independents Peter Njenga and Gary Hee both spent less in Surrey South ($7,881 and $1,767 respectively). Fabiola Cecilia Palomino of Your Political Party of B.C. spent $620 in an unsuccessful run at Surrey South, while the BC Refederation Party’s Liz Galenzoski spent $500 in Surrey-Panorama. In the cases of the Green’s Pascal Tremblay in Surrey South, Libertarian Josh Barrett for the same riding, the Greens’ Veronica Laurel in Surrey-Panorama and Libertarian Peter Poelstra in Surrey-Cloverdale, the amount anted up was even less – all combined, a big fat zero.
While one can draw a connection between restraint in campaign spending and avowed party philosophies, there is an incontrovertible reality that getting a candidate’s message to voters does not come without some cost.
On the other hand, it’s time a non-partisan look was taken at the highly undemocratic nature of current campaign funding practices. In what is supposedly a democratic society, should it be that only those with the deepest pockets have the best chance of representing us?