Business vote proposition appears to be DOA as civic election task force winds up

Next week, Vancouver City Council will debate the recommendations of an all-party committee on the city’s response to the Local Government Elections Task Force, the snap review of civic election law announced by Premier Gordon Campbell last fall during his speech to the Union of BC Municipalities.

Council’s decision should help kill the worst idea floated by the Premier: return of the business vote, so business licence holders could vote in civic elections. This relic of pre-democratic times, when male property owners were once considered the only folks suitable for casting ballots, was shoved back onto the provincial agenda by an aggressive lobby by small business interests.

The idea of “one person, two or more votes” held no fear for them if they had the multiple ballots.

Fortunately, the reaction has been universally negative. Last week’s rejection of the concept by the UBCM should make the idea Dead On Arrival as far as the task force is concerned.

More complex is the issue of banning union and corporate election contributions, something I have long favoured. Since the Vancouver recommendations are a consensus report of all three parties, they stop short of calling for a ban and propose a limit. This, by itself, would be a step in the right direction, particularly if combined with better reporting rules and spending limits.

One of the difficulties faced by legislators is the vast gap — really a chasm — between the realities of civic election campaigning in Burnaby, Vancouver or Surrey and those in Quesnel, Port Hardy or Tete Jaune Cache.

Here we have party systems with huge and costly campaigns, all operating under a set of rules that make the Wild West look authoritarian.

Out in the rural municipalities, life is simpler, the stakes lower and the opportunity for hanky-panky much reduced. Or is it?

Even the current relaxed regime proved too much for some rural politicians, who apparently didn’t bother reporting anonymous donations in Summerland’s 2008 contest.