No oversight of civic election spending

There is a history of corruption in Yukon politics, especially in the early days, said incumbent councillor Dave Stockdale.

There is a history of corruption in Yukon politics, especially in the early days, said incumbent councillor Dave Stockdale.

“If you read the history, you hear how they used to pay people to vote a certain way and drive people in from Skagway to sway elections.”

In a territory with such a sketchy past, you’d think there would be more oversight of the upcoming civic election.

But many voters have elected to be left off the voters’ list. And they only have to give their word that they are Whitehorse residents at polling stations.

And nobody knows who’s funding a candidate’s election. Or how much they have been given.

“There’s nothing in the rules that says you have to disclose who finances your campaign,” said Whitehorse returning officer Norma Felker.

“That’s not an issue that we deal with at the municipal level so there’s no requirement there.”

The Yukon isn’t the only place that doesn’t monitor civic-election spending.

Last Friday, the Union of BC Municipalities voted on a resolution calling for caps on donations and spending in civic election campaigns.

So should we have similar disclosure and caps here?

Most of the candidates in the current election say no.

“I don’t think it’s a major issue right now,” said candidate Ranj Pillai.

“But if you had somebody controlling the airwaves and everything then it might be time to take a look at it.”

“If it was required that it would be revealed, then I would certainly comply,” said mayoral candidate Al Fedoriak.

“I have no thoughts one way or another, but it shouldn’t make much of a difference.”

“I would never want to see us get to the point here where you had to buy your way into a seat in municipal office,” said incumbent Mayor Bev Buckway.

“And a lot of our councillors will tell you themselves that they get elected without spending any money.

“That’s good because that means that anybody can then run for municipal government.”

Most of the candidates said they were spending under $1,000, with some spending nothing at all.

Buckway probably spent the most on advertising, about $4,000.

“I haven’t spent anything except for the gas to put up signs that I put up before and I’m not doing anything new,” said incumbent Doug Graham.

“A little bit of advertising to get your name out there is a good thing, but after that it’s more what you do, not who you are.”

A cap could be a very good idea because civic elections should not be a matter of which candidate has the most money to spend, said candidate Skeeter Miller-Wright.

“A cap would ensure the proverbial level playing field.”

Candidate Michael Buurman agrees.

“It’s a public election so I think those records should be made public,” said Buurman.

“I basically think money and politics don’t mix, so anything we can do to distance those two realities the better. Having limits is one way.”

But extra transparency could financially hinder some candidates.

“I remember when somebody was trying to run in the territorial election for the Rhino Party,” said incumbent Jeanine Myhre.

“And he couldn’t run because he couldn’t afford the accountant to do his accounting.

“So I’m a little worried that financial requirements would limit the range of people that can run.”

“At the territorial level there’s no caps on donations,” said candidate Graham Lang.

“If there’s anywhere to start in the Yukon you’d think it would be at the territorial level, not the civic.”

Candidate Betty Irwin has a cap of a different sort in mind.

“We’re all talking about the environment and saving trees and I’m noticing a lot of signs going up and every time I open my mailbox I pull out flyers from all sorts of stores and federal politicians,” said Irwin.

“I wonder, in this age of electronic communication, whether that’s a good idea or not.

“It’s just a thought in the back of my mind, but it could be a problem later on down the road.”

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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