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Contributions to city candidates 

Politicians are legally required to reveal contributions to their political campaigns, but the information is often unreadable, not easily accessible and always comes in too late for voters to make informed choices.

1.

Forms 40 and 41 are the campaign contribution reports legally required of all candidates running in municipal and school board elections; Form 40 is for money given to a candidate directly, while Form 41 is for money given to a candidate’s campaign association, a group working on the candidate’s behalf. Not all candidates have associations.

2.

This is the first of eight pages of Form 41 submitted for District 17 councillor Linda Mosher. Many candidates submitted computerized spreadsheets or typed forms, but there is no requirement that the form be legible; large sections of Mosher's handwritten submission are essentially unreadable, and so while her Form 41 meets the letter of the law, it serves no useful purpose whatsoever.

3.

Forms 40 and 41, which are publicly available, track contributions to the candidate. The candidate is also required to report his or her expenditures, but unlike the cities of Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver, which put that information online, Haligonians are not allowed to view candidate expenditure reports. The potential for self-serving expenditures or other abuse is enormous, but there is no way for the public to discover it.

4.

R.W. Eaton is evidently the official agent responsible for tracking contributions to Mosher’s campaign. He or she filled out the form and submitted it to the municipal clerk’s office. Along with the other candidates’ forms, the clerk placed it in a four-inch thick black binder. In Montreal, Toronto and Calgary, they put candidates’ campaign contribution information online, but Halifax does not. Haligonians can view the forms, but it involves a trip to City Hall and a charge of 25 cents per page levied for copying.

5.

Candidates are required to report only contributions of $50 or more. Smaller contributions are unknown, and therefore secret. A determined group could get around the reporting requirement by “bundling” contributions---a church, a union or the Chamber of Commerce could hold a fundraising party, with each attendee ponying up $49, potentially raising thousands of dollars for a candidate (and buying great influence on the councillor’s votes) with no one the wiser. Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg prohibit anonymous contributions; Halifax does not.

6.

By far the largest contributors to council campaigns are developers, and the largest of those---$9,000 given to nine councillors across the political spectrum, including this $500 donation to Mosher---come from those firms associated with the Armoyan family, including Armco Capital Fund, APL Properties and public-private partnership school developer Scotia Learning Centres.

7.

Presumably, the forms are required so the electorate is informed as to who is financially supporting candidates. But candidates are not required to submit the form until 60 days after the election, and so the form will not help voters make informed decisions. A better system would have candidates enter contributions daily, as they’re received, onto a publicly viewable online database.

The Full List

Campaign contributions received by winning candidates to their 2008 HRM municipal elections campaign.
Source: Halifax Regional Municipality

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