A Bold Path Forward: Campaign Finance Reform
Part of my work as mayor includes advocating on your behalf to the provincial government about matters of importance to Calgarians. Long before I was elected mayor, I was an advocate for municipal campaign finance reform. I have consistently advocated for stronger rules and I have ran all my campaigns as if stricter rules are in place. I continue to believe that political campaigns should be about the best ideas, not who has the most money.
If I am re-elected as your mayor, I will continue to advocate for new provincial rules to ensure we have a Smarter City Hall. The provincial rules established under the Local Authorities Elections Act should limit the timing of campaign donations, establish better rules for the use of campaign surpluses, set a spending limit of $0.65 per resident, address the growing role of anonymous third parties attempting to influence Calgarians, and force all candidates to disclose their donors prior to Election Day.
The current rules require that municipal campaign donations only be disclosed long after the election is over. This means that Calgarians do not have the ability to see who is contributing financially to a campaign prior to casting their ballot unless the candidates step up and voluntarily disclose their donors. I proactively disclosed my donors and will do so regularly until Election Day. I challenge all candidates for council to show leadership and disclose their donors before Election Day. See my disclosure list here.
As there will inevitably be some candidates who choose not to voluntarily disclose their donors, the rules should be changed to mandate disclosure of the names of donors and the categories of each donation amount prior to Election Day.
Encouraging participation in our elections is critical to the health and success of our democracy. But we need to be wary of those who would try to influence Calgarians without accountability by spreading misinformation and refusing to reveal the identities of their funders. If I am re-elected mayor, I will work with the provincial government to establish rules to counter the influence of anonymously-funded American-style political groups. The best remedy to the undue influence of these groups is to mandate strong, recurring disclosure requirements for their funders with significant, escalating financial penalties for non-compliance.
Limiting when donations are allowed
Campaign donations are currently allowed at any time, up to a maximum of $5,000 per year. This means that over a four year term an incumbent mayor or councillor could raise $20,000 from a single donor. This provides incumbents with an unfair advantage over potential challengers. My solution is to only allow donations during the calendar year of the election. This would allow adequate time before an election to fundraise and immediately afterward to address any campaign debts. I have only sought donations for my election campaigns during the calendar year of the municipal election.
Currently, no spending limits are in place for municipal campaigns. This gives incumbent members of council a significant advantage over their challengers trying to get their name out there. I believe that the province should establish a spending limit of about $0.65 per resident. The limit could be adjusted based on the civic census and adjusted for inflation between election cycles. In the mayoral race, this rule would cap campaign spending at $812,000 in 2017, which is more than enough to run a successful campaign. In this election, I commit to spending less than $0.65 per Calgarian.
Currently any money not spent in a municipal campaign period can be carried over for a future election. Allowing these surpluses to be carried over means that incumbent members of council can begin the next election with a potentially massive financial advantage over their opponents.
I believe that all campaign surpluses should be donated to the City or to a registered charity after the election in order to give challengers an equal playing field. In this election, whether I win or lose, I commit to donating any campaign surplus. If re-elected as your mayor, I will push for new provincial rules mandating that campaign surpluses be donated.