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Municipal election reform pledged for 2014 campaign

Province opts to hold back spending limits until 2017

A ban on anonymous contributions in municipal elections is among the reforms the provincial government is pledging to have in place the next time local voters go to the polls to elect councils in November of 2014.

Details on the changes are to be spelled out in a white paper next month.

But Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes said additional changes will also require disclosure and registration of third-party advertisers in local government elections.

Sponsorship information will also be mandatory on all election advertising, and campaign finance disclosures will have to be filed within 90 days, instead of 120 days.

Limits on campaign spending for candidates, organizations and third-party advertisers are also coming, but they will be held back for implementation for the 2017 elections in order to allow more time for consultations.

The province is also expected to push municipal campaigns up one month, to run in the third week of October starting in 2017.

Oakes said the changes will improve transparency and accountability, calling them the most significant modernization of local election legislation in nearly two decades.

The changes will apply to elections for municipalities, regional districts, park boards, the Islands Trust and boards of education.

Union of B.C. Municipalities president Mary Sjostrom said she’s pleased with the commitment and said the government’s phased approach should ensure the changes work well for the full range of B.C. communities.

NDP local government critic Selina Robinson was critical of the delay to impose a campaign spending cap and said she’s not sure why the province needs more time and a white paper to act.

“What have they been doing?” she asked, adding six different ministers have had a combined six years to deliver reforms sought by UBCM.

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