Waters: Money can buy love – voters’ love

Big-buck municipal campaigns helped secure spots of Kelowna council in last November's election.

They say money can’t buy you love. But that may wrong when you talk about wooing voters.

Based on figures released Monday by Elections B.C., money bought plenty of voter love in the municipal election.

Of course, the candidate running for office has a lot to do with the successful outcome of any campaign, but as was shown in November’s civic election, deep pockets can, in most cases, also help translate into success at the ballot box.

Colin Basran, a first-tern councillor with no other political experience, spent more than $76,000 to easily defeat former two-time mayor Sharon Shepherd in the mayor’s race. Shepherd spent less than a third ($23,000) of what Basan spent and it showed in the results. In fact, Basran raised nearly as much from corporate donors as Shepherd spent on her entire campaign ($19,000).

Reading Basran’s donor list of individuals, it’s a veritable who’s who of local business people. Not so for Shepherd’s list.

Basran ran, in essence, a big city campaign. Shepherd didn’t. And that was the tale of the tape last November.

Lots of bucks also helped in the councillor race, with successful first-time winner Brad Sieben spending $25,000 to gain his seat, fellow first-time candidate Tracey Gray spending $17,000 to win her seat and incumbent Maxine DeHart spending $11,000 to hold her spot on council. For all the rest but one, the price of a council seat was between $8,000 and $9,000.

The exception was Charlie Hodge, who was unceremoniously dumped by voters in 2011 after being targeted for defeat by a special interest group called FourChange. He re-claimed the eighth and last seat on council by shelling out just $3,600, besting ninth-place finisher Carol Gran, who was part of a multi-candidate civic slate called Tax Payers First that spent $43,196, thanks in large part to controversial local businessman Mark Consiglio’s deep pockets. The Kelowna Mountain developer contributed a total of $28,960 to the Tax Payer First campaign that ran five candidates, including Gran.

The Kelowna spending, while not mirrored in adjacent municipalities such as West Kelonwa and Lake Country or in Peachland—shows the political landscape in Kelowna has changed.

Basran’s spending was more $20,000 more than Walter Gray spent in 2011 to defeat Shepherd and showed election campaigns are more complex, require bigger and better and require more targeted spending than before to not only get the message out, but to make sure it sticks. At the end of the day, any campign wants the name of its candidate top of in voters’ minds as they enter the ballot booth.

In four years, the price to play, and win, the mayor’s chair here will likely be even higher, especially if two or more high-profile candidates go at it.

We’ll also likely see more civic partys emerge now that Tax Payers First and Prosper Kelonwa have blazed the trail.

Unlike other provinces that have caps on municipal election spending, BC seems more intent on limiting individual donations than total campaign spending.

And that means the civic election spending in larger centres is only likely to climb.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.


Kelowna Capital News

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