More than half of all money donated to the two major mayoral campaigns in Penticton in 2014 would not be permitted under proposed changes to local election funding rules.
Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson announced early this week the B.C. NDP government would be introducing legislation to cut corporate and union donations from civic elections and limit personal donations to $1,200 per person per year.
Fifty-three per cent of the $41,000 donated to Mayor Andrew Jakubeit and fellow 2014 candidate John Vassilaki combined came from businesses, according to a quick analysis of the statements on the Elections B.C. website.
For Jakubeit, that was a fair bit higher, at just under a full 60 per cent of money heading to his campaign, while Vassilaki garnered 47 per cent of his funds from businesses.
Those businesses, which ranged from Interior Roofing (donated $2,000 to Vassilaki) to Gateway Casinos ($2,500 to Jakubeit) to the Okanagan Hockey School ($1,000 to Jakubeit), would be barred from donating to campaigns in the election in 2018.
But Jakubeit pointed out, for small cities like Penticton, there isn’t much stopping that money from flowing. Because most companies in Penticton are locally owned, Jakubeit said a cheque that would have come in from a local company can just come from that company’s owner instead.
“I think the larger centres, the Lower Mainland, campaigns are extremely expensive, and they’re sort of financed by election parties or party slates, and it becomes more complicated,” Jakubeit said.
“For any citizen who just wants to give back to the community and isn’t well-established or well-funded, it’s a difficult battle to inform the public on who you are and why you would be a good choice.”
But in a place like Penticton, Jakubeit said elections are far cheaper and don’t tend to garner many contributions greater than $1,200 anyway.
While a larger corporation looking to donate several thousand dollars to a candidate or party in Vancouver would have to divide that donation up among various individuals — which would likely break election financing rules — a business owner in Penticton can just personally donate what their business would have contributed.
Jakubeit said he is in favour of the changes, which he said would “level the playing field” for candidates who are looking to contribute to local politics without having deep pockets.
“I think whatever the province puts forth to help level the playing field is a good thing, and I’m supportive of that,” he said. “Politics shouldn’t be for the elite or shouldn’t be dictated on the size of your bank account or access to your bank account. It should be the best people for the community.”
Jakubeit said he can’t say for sure at this point, less than a year to the next election, but he believes he will be running for mayor in 2018.
“I think we’ve got a lot of things that are positive that are happening in our community, and some of that’s been overshadowed previously by Skaha Park,” he said.
“I think if you look around and you see all the development that’s happening, a lot of good things that are happening, and some of the official community plan, and parks plan and other things like that, those are all positive things to be excited and proud about.”