Big spending prompts closer look at campaign finances

By Jeff Labine
March 17, 2017 - 12:00pm

Big spending in Prince Albert’s last municipal election has the city’s mayor thinking about having candidates file campaign expenses.

Major cities in Saskatchewan like Saskatoon and Regina require candidates running for municipal office to file how much they spent and who donated money to them. For other cities, there’s no clear cut rules and it's usually left for individual municipalities to decide.

Moose Jaw and North Battleford both require candidates to file campaign expenses but Yorkton and Swift Current don’t.

At the moment, Prince Albert doesn’t require candidates to file but Mayor Greg Dionne told paNOW the idea is being considered.

“The whole election as a package has been sent to the management committee to bring back recommendations to council,” he said. “Until this last election, there hasn’t been big expenditures. One of the candidates spent a fortune on big signs and had them all over the community so that sort of sparked the interest.”

He said the management committee will look at the 15 cities Prince Albert works with on a regular basis and will try to learn more about the process in the cities which do require filed expense reports.

Dionne explained he spoke with one councillor who only spent $600 on his campaign, which he argued was the norm before the 2016 election. He said it was more about who the candidate was in the community and less about how much they spent.

Candidates in bigger cities like Regina and Saskatoon have to spend more, he argued, because they have a larger audience to reach.

Dionne also believes the decision whether or not to require candidates to file should rest with the municipality.

“I believe it should be municipalities and it would be different, where I am from, to use them as a tax write-off,” he said. “If there was a benefit. I don’t see the benefits of reporting, I don’t see the benefits of not reporting. I’m very neutral on it.”

Moose Jaw Coun. Don Mitchell, who has been involved with municipal politics for 13 years, voted to require candidates to file expenses back in 2009. He said the main reasons why council brought in those requirements was to improve transparency and limiting spending.

Mitchell, who has also served as Moose Jaw’s mayor, said he wasn’t sure why the issue wasn’t brought up sooner.

“We’re in a city that still doesn’t have a ward system so if you are running in a city-wide election, there are considerable costs so some people have to do some fundraising,” he said. “It’s a matter being both accountable for in terms of who is providing the funding but also setting a limit on it so the competition to raise funds doesn’t put people out of the possibility of running.”

Mitchell shared Dionne’s opinion that the decision to impose candidates to file expenses should rest with the municipality and not a senior level of government.

 

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