There are some who think, with good reason, that Vancouver's rules around donations amount to a "wild west" anything goes scenario. The rules are certainly not very tough, and they are rarely enforced with vigour.
However, there are clear rules that every candidate and elector organization must swear to by signing page two of the donor disclosure form. Without this signature and the promise to stick by the rules, you cannot legitimately hold office in the City of Vancouver. The section of the Vancouver Charter each candidate and their financial agents commit to is simply called "Division 8."
Division 8 is broken up into several sections that describe in detail each aspect of who receives money, how it is received, and how it is reported. The section that is most important to our Know Your Donor series is sub-section 59, titled "Restrictions on making campaign donations."
Section 59 makes it pretty clear that candidates and electoral organizations must be transparent and open about who donated, and how much. The only wrinkle in the law is that if a donation is below $50, it can be ruled as an "anonymous" donation.
In the 2008 declarations of the three main Vancouver parties the amount of "anonymous" donations (or total donations by groups or individuals amounting to less than $50.00) is as follows:
Vancouver Non-Partisan Association: $0
Vision Vancouver: $37,813.86
Another interesting part of sub-section 59 is this:
A person or unincorporated organization must not...make a campaign contribution indirectly by giving the money, property or services to a person or unincorporated organization for that person or organization to make as a campaign contribution.
In plain English: if you give a donation, it is illegal to give it through a third party.
Here is the entirety of sub-section 59:
Restrictions on making campaign contributions
59. (1) A person or unincorporated organization must not do any of the following:
(a) make a campaign contribution to a candidate, elector organization or campaign organizer except by making it to the financial agent or a person authorized by the financial agent;
(b) make an anonymous campaign contribution that has a value of more than $50;
(c) make a number of anonymous campaign contributions to the same candidate for the election campaign if, in aggregate, the campaign contributions would be equal in value to more than $50;
(d) make a number of anonymous campaign contributions to the same elector organization or campaign organizer in relation to one or more elections that are conducted at the same time if, in total, the campaign contributions would be equal in value to more than $50;
(e) make a campaign contribution indirectly by giving the money, property or services to a person or unincorporated organization for that person or organization to make as a campaign contribution.
(2) If a candidate, elector organization or campaign organizer is given an anonymous campaign contribution that exceeds the limit established by subsection (1), the candidate, elector organization or campaign organizer must give the campaign contribution to the city for the use of the city in the discretion of the Council.