It’s not just candidates who ran in the recent civic election who will have to divulge how much they spent to try to get elected, some local groups that endorsed candidates must also reveal how much they spent during the campaign.
Under little-known changes to the the provincial rules governing elections, groups that spend more than $500 promoting individual candidates or groups of candidates must file financial disclosure documents with the municipality where they operated or face fines and other punitive measures from the province. The fines for not filing can be as high as $5,000 and there can also be prohibitions from participating in future elections.
The rules were quietly introduced by Victoria just before the 2008 civic election and while Kelowna city hall does not act as the “election police” when it comes to financial disclosure, city clerk Stephen Fleming said it has decided to be proactive in identifying groups that could be affected.
As a result it has informing groups it knows of about of the rules.
The requirement means groups such as FourChange.org, which endorsed four candidates for council and advertised their selections and the Mission Residents Association, which sent out a newsletter identifying candidates it endorsed are both subject to the financial disclosure requirement. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is also subject to the rules here.
Like candidates, the groups, officially considered “campaign organizers,” must file financial disclosure forms by March 19.
Other groups, that endorsed candidates and made their endorsements public but did not spend more than $500 to do so, are not required to file disclosures.
Fleming said city election officials watched during the campaign to identify groups that may be subject to the reporting requirements and have contacted them to inform them of the rules.
“We are trying to be proactive,” he said, noting it is the province, not the city that requires the reporting. But, he noted, the reporting must be made to the city.
While it has not revealed how much it spent to promote council candidates Gerry Zimmerman, Colin Basran, Gail Given and Carol Gran, FourChange.org did advertise its endorsements heavily, especially during the latter days of the campaign. Three of the candidates were successful — Zimmermann, Basran and Given— but al three stressed during the campaign that they did not run as a “slate.”
The campaigned separately and advertised separately.
Under the rules, a group sunning a slate, is considered an “election organization” and subject to similar rules. No election organization was identified here during the civic election, said Fleming.
He added that has only happened once since the rules changed, in 2008 when three candidates ran together and had the name of their group printed on the ballot.
The Mission Residents Association is also subject to the financial disclosure rules, said Fleming, because it printed a newsletter during the campaign that it mailed out to hundreds of its members endorsing candidates.
Other groups also endorsed candidates, such as the local firefighters union and the North Okanagan Labour Council. The city has not identified them as groups that spent more than $500 each.
Once financial disclosure forms are filed, they become public.