The B.C. government has introduced legislation in order to make campaigns to recall members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) more fair by banning corporate and union donations, as well as restricting advertising rules.
Under the Recall and Initiative Act, when a recall petition is issued by the chief electoral officer, the voter becomes the proponent of the recall petition and has up to 60 days to gather signatures and submit the petition for verification.
Currently, there are no restrictions on who may contribute to the recall proponents, MLAs or third-party advertising sponsors, or how much they may contribute. Third-party advertising sponsors have no spending limits during a petition period, but recall proponents and MLAs do.
The Recall and Initiative Amendment Act 2018 addresses these problems by aligning financing rules for recall campaigns with the Election Act. The proposed changes to the Recall and Initiative Act include:
- banning corporate and union contributions;
- limiting individual British Columbians to contributing $1,200 per year to a petition proponent, an MLA subject to a petition, or to any one third-party advertising sponsor; and
- creating a spending limit of $5,000 for third-party advertisers during a recall petition period.
The $1,200 annual limit will apply to political contributions made to the MLA, the MLA’s political party or constituency association during an election. This means that individuals cannot give more than $1,200 annually for any combination of recall and political contributions.
The proposed amendments also prohibit concurrent recall petitions in a single electoral district, meaning that only one petition can be circulating in a district at any given time.
Applying for a recall petition in the six months immediately before general voting day for a scheduled general election would also be prohibited.
Did you know?
- No other Canadian jurisdiction provides a legislative framework for voters to remove an elected member from office. In B.C., successful petitions result in the immediate removal of an MLA from office.
- A recall petition cannot be initiated until at least 18 months after an MLA is elected.
- Nov. 13, 2018, would be the earliest opportunity to apply to recall an MLA elected in the May 9, 2017, provincial general election.
- News release, Sept. 18, 2017: “Wild west” era of big money political fundraising in BC ends with new regulations
Summary of proposed amendments to the Recall and Initiative Act
The authorized participants in a recall are the proponent of the recall petition and the MLA who is the subject of the recall.
The proposed amendments to the Recall and Initiative Act would do the following:
- Prohibit concurrent recall petitions in a single electoral district. Currently, there can be more than one recall petition circulating in a district at any given time, which could be used to unfairly increase spending limits.
- Restrict recall contributions to authorized participants so that they may be made only by eligible individuals, i.e., Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are also residents of British Columbia.
- Limit recall contributions to proponents and MLAs to $1,200 in a calendar year. This is the same contribution limit for political contributions in the Election Act.
- Provide that contributions from an eligible individual to an MLA facing a recall must not exceed $1,200 alone or in combination with any political contributions made in that calendar year to the MLA’s political party or constituency association.
- Require advertising sponsors to obtain from contributors a confirmation that the contributor is an eligible individual, and consent to use a contribution for recall advertising.
- Provide for transfers of money from an MLA’s political party or constituency association to the MLA for the purpose of the recall campaign. Currently, these transfers are permitted but are classified as recall contributions.
- Require loans for proponents and MLAs to be obtained only from financial institutions at a rate of interest no lower than prime rate.
- Prohibit applications for recall petition during the six months immediately before general voting day for a scheduled general election.
Third-party advertising sponsors:
A third-party advertising sponsor is any individual or organization that engages in recall advertising. Currently, recall advertising applies only to advertising during a recall petition period to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the recall of an MLA who is the subject of the petition.
The proposed amendments would do the following:
- Expand the definition of recall advertising to include paid canvassing and direct mail, similar to the definition in the Election Act.
- Require recall advertising sponsors to be independent of the petition proponent and the MLA who is subject of the recall, with the exception of the political party the MLA represents.
- Require advertising sponsors to obtain from contributors a confirmation that the contributor is an eligible individual, and consent to use a contribution for recall advertising, as in the Election Act.
- Limit recall contributions to third-party advertising sponsors to $1,200 in a calendar year. This is the same contribution limit for advertising sponsorship contributions in the Election Act.
- Limit spending by recall advertising sponsors to $5,000 during a 60-day recall petition period.
- Require anyone who engages in direct recall advertising (i.e., explicitly advocating the recall of an MLA at any time outside a petition period) to register with Elections BC and report their expenses and contributions, similar to the rules for the pre-campaign period under the Election Act.
The amendments would also:
- Update requirements regarding the responsibilities of financial agents and the content of financing reports for all participants.
- Create monetary penalties similar in scale to Election Act monetary penalties that may be imposed by the chief electoral officer.
- Update the offence provisions to include the new rules and restrictions and increase the maximum fine from $5,000 to $10,000.
- Provide the chief electoral officer with regulation-making authority.