vancouverbiennale.com/" data-caption="vancouverbiennale.com/" data-credit="Kris Krug/Flickr"> The first significant debate
When you compare prices at the supermarket you usually look at comparable products, for instance you don't compare the price of a head of lettuce with a can of baked beans. It should be the same way with government consultations.
No matter how well-intentioned the B.C. government's first round of electoral reforms may be, they are -- for the most part -- cosmetic in nature when contrasted against the public's very real loss of confidence in local democracy. Without meaningful electoral finance reform including election spending and contribution limits, candidacy for local government will -- by and large -- remain the purview of the affluent and well-connected.
If local campaign spending is obscene, it only follows that candidates need to fall back on contributors with obscenely large wallets to pay the bills. And fall back they did. In the 2011 elections, the single largest donation was $960,000 courtesy of local land developer Rob Macdonald to Vancouver's NPA. To put that sum into context, it's more than double what Naheed Nenshi spent on his way to winning the mayor's chair of Calgary in 2010. Calgary has nearly a quarter of a million more voters than Vancouver.
If voters were under the impression that it's only provincially in B.C. where corporate and union bucks talk tough, think again. Consider how much each candidate running for a mayor's chair in various Lower Mainland municipalities had to raise for their campaign in last year's local elections.