District of North Vancouver councillors will debate today on creating a policy that would require all council members to declare any campaign contribution they may have received from any developer or his associates before voting on a development brought forward by that applicant.
Once such a declaration is made, the council member would be encouraged to recuse themselves from voting on that specific development. The council motion, brought forward by Councillor Jim Hanson, would also push for an internet link of the campaign financing disclosure statements to be prominently placed on the DNV web page. The motion also calls upon the Mayor or the Acting mayor to request the full disclosure of campaign donations before any discussion or voting happens on any application.
“As locally elected representatives of our community, we must be open and honest about our motivations. Whatever the truth may be, many voters in the District suspect a linkage between the voting records of certain Councillors and their receipt of campaign finance from development companies
Creating such a policy would foster greater transparency and accountability, according to the motion. In the last municipal elections, the provincial government introduced a reform of campaign donations rule, banning corporate and union donations and limiting individual donations to $1,200 to any one candidate or a party. But the legislation doesn’t deal with the issue of corporations seeking to make political donations indirectly through people affiliated with the company, says the motion.
For example, the motion says, a candidate received funds from the spouse of the President of a major North Shore development company, and another candidate received funds from a partner of a development company, while another received funds from the president and founder of a development company. The motion goes on to mention Building Bridges slate, which it says received numerous donations from persons associated with corporations engaged in real estate development, including donations from people associated with major development companies operating in North Shore and the region.
“As locally elected representatives of our community, we must be open and honest about our motivations. Whatever the truth may be, many voters in the District suspect a linkage between the voting records of certain Councillors and their receipt of campaign finance from development companies,” Hanson says in the council motion.
The financial contribution often leads to citizen’s questioning the motivation of those who will eventually be voting on those applications. Adopting a policy where councillors declare and acknowledge this conflict will ensure more transparency in the process and accountability in the public mind.
“This proposal will convey a serious commitment on the part of council to regain the trust of the electorate on issues of development, raise awareness of potential corporate influence, and foster an environment of transparency,” says Hanson. Last month, two local citizens appeared before the council and urged councillors to recuse themselves from voting on development which may be connected to their election donors. “Perception is everything, and the average resident will clearly see it as a conflict of interest if you decided to vote on matters that will be monetarily rewarding to any of your financial supporters,” said Eric Andersen.
Andersen said the motion that is up for debate is ‘extremely well prepared and very logical’ but doesn’t go quite far enough, since it only encourages members to abstain rather than creating a policy that would prohibit them. Hanson is also calling upon the council to vigorously debate campaign contributions as well as other issues, real or perceived, that may create an impression of bias and conflict of interest. Those discussions will help hold locally elected officials to a high standard of ethical conduct.