Potential candidates in the upcoming Kelowna municipal election got a crash course in B.C. civic politics Wednesday night.
The session, hosted by city clerk Stephen Fleming and chief election officer Karen Needham, offered the 40 people who showed up basic information about what is required of elected council members in terms of responsibilities, time and an explanation of how B.C. municipal government works.
But while the information presented covered a wide spectrum, most of the questions fired at Fleming and Needham had to do with campaign financing.
For instance, prospective candidates were told that there are no campaign spending limits, or limits on how much can be collected in campaign donations.
But both have to be reported after the election, whether a candidate wins a seat or not.
Names of donors who contribute more than $100 must be filed on campaign disclosure forms.
Anyone who contributes less than $100 does not have their name made public but the candidate must know who they are, said Fleming.
And candidates who contribute to their own campaigns must record those amounts too.
A bank account must be opened for the campaign and all money received and spent has to go through it.
If—and Fleming said it rarely happens—a campaign has a surplus at the end, the full amount must go to the city if it is more than $500.
The money is held for the candidate if he or she runs in the next election.
If he or she doesn’t, it becomes the property of the city.
Armed with this information and a host of other details, many of the people in attendance said they found the meeting informative.
“I had read the nomination package but it was good to get a human being explain it,” said Bobby Kennedy, who has decided he will run for council in the election.
The 26-year-old Rutland skateboard shop owner said he has seen a lot of changes in the city, some good and some bad, and feels the city often caters to an older demographic.
“You have to be 18 to vote but don’t have to be 18 to have an opinion,” said Kennedy.
Running a store that caters to younger residents, Kennedy said he is often impressed with what young people have to say and wants their voice heard on council.
Another confirmed candidate, Tasha Batt, said she learned a great deal from the information session.
Asked why she was running, Batt said she has a passion to serve and wants to contribute to her community.
For others, such as Gerry Zimmermann, the session was more of a “refresher,” having not sat on council but having dealt with councils in the past when he was in charge of the fire department.
“It was a bit of a re-education for me,” he said.
Council candidate Tisha Kalmanovitch was happy the city held the information session prior to the Oct. 4 to 14 nomination period this time around.
“It really helps prepare people better,” said Kalmanovitch, who ran unsuccessfully for the NDP in Kelowna-Lake Country in the last provincial election.
As of Friday, 53 people had picked up nomination packages for council and 11 had picked up papers for mayor.
While not all those who picked up papers are expected to file and run, if past history holds true there could be 35 or more names on the ballot for the eight council seats.
In addition to the session on Wednesday, the city has also provided information on its web site, kelowna.ca, for candidates. There are also links to more information from the province about municipal government.