Who Pays the Piper?

Ron Bolin:  Jan. 21, 2012

The election that will see our current Council in office until November 2014 was held on November 19, 2011.  All candidates, especially those who were elected, have until March 15, 2012, to file the obligatory campaign finance documents which state the amount of money spent in a campaign and the sources from which that money was obtained.  To date, only four of the nine elected candidates have filed their papers.  See:

http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/departments/Legislative-Services/4609/2011GeneralElection/CamFinDisclose.html

 It is hard to imagine why filing should not be completed quickly , although 120 days from the election is set in the legislation, particularly as this information is to be used in accordance with Section 93 of the Local Government Act:

“Section 93(8) states that “a person who inspects or otherwise accesses a document referred to in subsection (1) under this section must not use the information included in them except for the purposes of the following:

(a)    this Part;

(b)   Division 6 [Conflict of Interest] or Division 7 [Disqualification] of Part 4 of the Community Charter;

(c)    Section 141, 142.1 to 142.3 and 145.92 of the Vancouver Charter.”

The start of a new budget year following an election can be of particular interest in noting any perceived conflicts of interest which might arise linking campaign donations and City budget items or contracts. This information is vital to ensure that doubts concerning the independence of City financial decisions are minimized.  The problem can be particularly acute in an election environment like that in Nanaimo which is basically devoid of individual grass roots campaign contributions and is dominated by corporate and union monies.

Nanaimo has had an unfortunate history of problems with Divisions 6 and 7 which we should try to avoid in future.  The problem can be complicated by votes taken in-camera which may add to the concern that all is not handled in a transparent manner.  Such matters should be avoided by Council and the votes on contracts or budget items should, if not done in public, at least quickly be made public.

As an additional point of darkness, I have been informed that Council’s decision to approve the recent CUPE contract was made in-camera and that the vote is thus secret.  I have enquired how such a money matter can be decided beyond public examination but have yet to get a response.

More on these issues later.

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