Council votes down campaign spending limit and disclosure amendment for 2024 municipal election bylaw

Herald file photo

Prince Albert City Council voted down an amendment on Monday to have municipal election candidates disclose campaign contributions and implement campaign spending limits.

Council voted 6-2 against the amendment. Mayor Dionne said Prince Albert’s small population makes laws against municipal campaign spending limits unnecessary.

“We’re just a little community,” Dionne said. “Everybody (makes it) sound like we have big corporations that are going to write us $50,000 cheques and bring suitcases in. That’s not our case. We’re a very small intimate community.”

Saskatoon has a campaign spending limit, although the actual maximum amount won’t be determined until March. In 2020, Saskatoon mayoral candidates were not allowed to exceed $229,497.92 in campaign spending, with council candidates limited to 10 per cent of that total. In Regina, the cap was $68,776 for mayoral candidates and $11,393 for councillors.

Dionne said he’s not concerned about what larger cities do. He said it makes no sense for Prince Albert.

“I am getting so tired of being compared to Saskatoon,” he told council. “(They have) 260,000 people. We have less than 40,000. They have reasons for it.

“We have to keep things in perspective,” he added. “If we’re going to compare ourselves, we have to compare ourselves with somebody our size.”

The amendment would have also required nominees to disclose campaign contributions and expenses, something required in other cities like Saskatoon, Regina, and Moose Jaw.

In Moose Jaw, candidates are required to disclose campaign contributions and expenses to get their campaign deposit back.

Coun. Blake Edwards was the only council member besides Dionne to speak against the amendment. He also said campaign disclosure is unnecessary in a small community.

“Let’s say a specific individual or a business does support either a mayor or councillor and gives a donation and it’s public, it could negatively impact that business,” Edwards said. “It could. Others might say, ‘oh, you’re supporting this person, I’m not entering that business again.’ I don’t like that.”

Terra Lennox-Zepp moved the amendment at Monday’s meeting. She said implementing spending limits and making candidates disclose contributions and expenses would improve election transparency.

“If there are people who want to donate to someone who’s running for office (and) they don’t want … others to know that they’ve donated, perhaps then we shouldn’t be taking money from those sources, which is exactly the case in other major cities like Saskatoon, (and) Regina,” Lennox-Zepp told council.

The amendment vote came during a debate over proposed Bylaw amendments as the City prepares for a fall municipal election. City Clerk Terri Mercier told council that provincial amendments to the Local Government Election Act came into effect on Jan. 1.

The new legislation gives city communities with more than 20,000 people the option to increase the nomination deposit candidates must make before running. If also gives city councils the option to change the nomination day from five weeks before the election to seven.

Council voted 7-1 in favour of both options, instructing Mercier to draft bylaw amendments increasing the nomination deposit from $100 to $250 and moving nomination day back by two weeks.

Dionne said moving nomination day would give the City’s electoral officers more time to prepare for the election, which should ensure it runs smoothly.

None of the changes are final until voted on again at a future city council meeting.

The 2024 municipal election is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 13. The Saskatchewan Rivers and Prince Albert Catholic school divisions will also hold school board elections on that day.