Fundraising cap could affect upcoming Abbotsford municipal election

Corporations made more than half of 2015 mayoral donations

New election financing laws for municipal election campaigns may significantly reduce the amount of money at play in next fall’s municipal election campaign.

And if next year’s election ends up looking like the last campaign, some candidates will be harder hit than others.

The new law, which received royal assent Nov. 30, bars all donations from corporations and unions, and puts a $1,200 annual cap on individual contributions to political parties. The law also lowers the total amount candidates are allowed to spend on their campaigns, depending on a city’s size.

In 2014, the two mayoral candidates – Henry Braun and Bruce Banman – raised around $200,000 between them. Banman raised $148,171, while Braun recorded $75,600 in contributions.

Braun’s figure included a $20,000 loan he made to himself and later repaid, while Banman’s figure included a $5,000 contribution to himself.

For both mayoral candidates, the majority of money raised came from corporations.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the money will be completely inaccessible; many of those corporate donations come from small businesses owned by a single proprietor or a couple. Those owners could choose to give money under their own names, so a couple could give up to $2,400 to a single candidate.

Still, in the last civic election, financial disclosure documents show $53,100 of Banman’s fundraising total came from donations totalling more than $5,000. The majority of that money wouldn’t have been accessible under the rules currently in place.

Braun, meanwhile, capped contributions to his campaign at $2,500. But his loan to himself, which he made at the very start of the campaign, wouldn’t have been allowed, with such contributions also subject to individual limits.

Braun, who won that election, told The News that the new rules seem OK at first glance.

“I do think it was getting out of hand and something needed to be done,” he said.

Limits are likely to have a less dramatic effect on those campaigning for council seats, although fundraising for the AbbotsfordFirst slate may be affected.

In the last campaign, the AbbotsfordFirst slate raised $70,171.49. Of that, $23,700 came from corporations. The slate received only one individual donation exceeding $2,500, although at least one other person made multiple contributions which, when combined, totalled slightly more than that theoretical cap.

Under the new rules, individuals will only be able to donate a total of $1,200 to slates like AbbotsfordFirst, with electoral organizations then having to divvy up that sum among candidates. Individuals can donate up to $1,200 to multiple non-aligned candidates, if they want.

AbbotsfordFirst president Markus Delves said he doesn’t see the new rules being a problem for his organization.

“I’m not expecting the new rules to have a big impact on us,” he said. Delves noted that most of the group’s donors gave less than $1,200 in the last election. AbbotsfordFirst did garner $23,700 from corporations in 2014, but Delves said most of those donors were owner-operator businesses.

“I suspect we’ll be able to speak with those owners to see if they’re willing to contribute as individuals,” he said.

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