Healthy democracy, vibrant community

finalLike the last election I’ve made 30 promises this campaign, progressive ideas that focus on our neighbourhood priorities, supports stronger communities, and builds a better HRM. This is a detail policy blog that outlines three of those promises.

I believe HRM needs new rules so citizens can trust their government and keep their elected leaders accountable.

A healthy democracy is vital to growing a vibrant municipality and depends on having informed citizens and an open, transparent government. Halifax keeps getting bigger and more complex. We need to ensure the people of HRM have trust and confidence in their municipal government by being clear about campaign finance rules, ensuring oversight relating to conflicts of interest and demonstrating that council makes the best use of citizens’ tax dollars.

There are real stakes in this election. How are elections funded? What can that funding be spent on? Clarifying the answers to these questions is fundamental to building trust. That’s why provincial and federal elections have strong campaign finance laws. I believe strong laws are are needed at the municipal level, too.  That’s why I believe so strongly in better campaign finance rules.

Look at the recent vote for the 29-storey tower at Quinpool and Robie. I voted against the additional height, but the majority of council members voted to allow the additional storeys. The intentions of some council members were called into question. How much influence did the developer have on council? How much campaign money did individual councillors accept during their election campaigns? While I don’t think there is was any wrongdoing, the lack of campaign finance rules creates doubt about why councillors voted yes or no.

I have not and will not accept donations from special interest groups. I didn’t accept them last election and I never will.

I’m proud to have helped lead the charge to ask the province to let HRM establish campaign finance rules. We got the provincial law changed – but the change came too late for council to approve new rules for this election.

I want this to be the last election where special interest money flows to municipal campaigns. I believe it’s fair to ask  every candidate in every district if they accept campaign contributions from special interest groups. As a citizen and a voter, it’s your right to have that information.

The next council must debate what the new rules will be. We need leaders you can trust to bring in strong, uncompromising rules.

Campaign finance reform will make municipal elections more transparent and remove any doubts around the integrity of individual councillor’s votes. Let’s level the playing field between candidates. Doing so will energize our democracy, ensuring our elections are based on people and ideas, rather than the size of a candidate’s campaign war chests.

Another issue that concerns me is the lack of  oversight relating to conflicts of interest and other potential influencers.

Councillors’ mail isn’t logged. There is no gift reporting requirement or lobbyist registry. A councillor’s calendar is not public. Citizens deserve to know when special or corporate interests lobby their elected representatives. I post my daily meetings and events online. People know exactly how I am spending my day on their behalf. Together we can make changes so every councillor is required to be more transparent.

Finally, people often ask if Council is making the best use of their tax dollars, especially about contracting out service delivery.

I think we can do a better job of getting quality services at competitive rates. Where services can be improved and costs reduced, HRM should be prepared to deliver those services in-house instead of outsourcing. Some services, such as recreation facility management, should never be contracted out. We should be willing to test the cost effectiveness and service quality of outside contractors against in-house delivery. HRM should support the creation of “bids” prepared by staff showing the current cost of “contracting in.”

Commitments:

  1. Complete strong campaign finance regulations.
  2. Implement a new conflict of interest, transparency and ethics package for Council.
  3. Support the creation of “bids” prepared by staff showing the current cost of “contracting in.”
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