09/16/2014 03:49 EDT | Updated 11/16/2014 05:59 EST

How To Keep Big Money Out Of B.C. Municipal Elections

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Local elections for mayor and council are around the corner in British Columbia. The more I learn and read about elections and government, the more I feel the political process needs to radically change.

The political system at every level is held hostage by big money, partisan politics, and special interest groups such as by developers, corporate lobbyists, as well as labour.

There needs to be a direct connection from the citizens to the elected official without all these special interests trying to skew the outcome of the election or trying to influence the voting intentions and platforms of the candidates. The end result would be elected officials who would be truly independent and can vote with their conscience and what is best for the citizens and their community.

I believe there is a way to make politics more democratic, competitive, and accessible for the rest of us. It's a simple six-step electoral reform plan that attempts to create a level playing field for all political candidates and would involve the following changes:

RESIDENCY - A candidate would have to live in the city he or she hopes to represent for three years prior to the election.

NOMINATION - A candidate would have to be nominated by 25 citizens who live in the city he or she hopes to represent.

DEPOSIT - A candidate would pay a deposit to a private bank in exchange for a campaign loan. The loan would be capped at a legislated maximum.

RECEIPTS - A candidate would submit his or her campaign receipts to the bank after the election.

REIMBURSEMENT - The elections office would reimburse banks for all official campaign expenses from official candidates up to a pre-set maximum amount, which would be the same for all candidates.

CANDIDATE PROFILES - The elections office would produce an elections website that would list the biographies, community experience, education, experience, and qualifications of all the candidates. This would provide an unbiased source of information for the voters to quickly compare candidates.

This simple six-step electoral reform plan would essentially eliminate big money in politics. Wow! Can you imagine.

Interestingly, Stephen Harper has taken steps to remove federal subsidies to political parties. This will officially make donations from individuals, lobbyists, and corporations a centrepiece of how politics is done in Canada. In other words, political power will be shifted to the corporate elite and the rich, and the corporations will officially be running Canada.

And there it is! This six-step, electoral reform plan would be a huge step forward in ensuring that the best interests of all citizens are reflected in government policy and decision-making. It would reduce the influence that big money and corporations currently have on the political process.

What ideas do you have to put an end to big money in politics?

Alex Sangha is an award-winning social worker and author. He has an MSc in Public Administration and Public Policy from the Department of Government from the London School of Economics.


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