As the candidates’ financial reports continue to trickle in for last November’s civic election, it’s becoming obvious this will likely go down as the cheapest campaign — if not in history — then certainly in the last decade or so.
That’s especially so for the mayoral race. With two of the four candidates having filed their expense breakdowns, the total so far is less than half what a single candidate would normal rack up.
Peter Milobar’s bottom line comes to $13,943 compared to $26,622 in 2008. Gordon Chow spent $817, all coming from his own pocket. With Dieter Dudy and Brian Alexander still to file — they have until March 19 — the total could rise by another $12,000 of so, but it will still come in at a modest number.
There’s a similar trend in the race for council seats. In 2008, council candidates put out an average of $4,100 for their campaigns. In 2011, the average so far is $2,985.
An incumbent will often spend around $4,000 to $6,000 (Nancy Bepple spent $5,449 and $6,930 in 2011 and 2008 respectively) but there are exceptions. Tina Lange’s campaign cost her $1,800 in November, compared to $736 the previous election. That’s the benefit of name recognition.
Why the tight wallets? Some people would argue that’s not such a bad thing — lower spending means more chance for unknowns, and less campaign advertising cluttering up our mailboxes and streetscapes.
The reason, though, probably has something to do with expectations. The mayoral race wasn’t even supposed to happen, for one thing. When it did happen, it was slow to start, building momentum only in the last two weeks of the campaign.
There simply wasn’t a lot of motivation to build big war chests.
On the council side, there were plenty of candidates representing some high-profile issues, but the parkade fiasco had sputtered out, Ajax was on hold as a hot-button topic, and there were no big spending projects.
As interesting as how candidates spend their money, is where it comes from. There, too, there’s evidence of a lack of urgency.
Milobar (the only real example we have of the mayoral candidates so far), got much of his support from land developers and related businesses.
AT&T gave him $5,000 in 2008 but only $1,000 in 2011. Likewise for the Sandman Hotel and Quinn Developments Inc. Chances Gaming/ 7779 Ventures anted up $2,500, half what it gave the previous election.
Other significant contributors in 2011 include Plainsman, Mibroc Developments, DW Builders and Kamloops Home Hardware, Even the Kamloops Blazers handed in a cheque for $500.
But names like B.C. Wilderness Tours, Culos Development and Kamloops Square Management that were there in 2008 are missing in 2011.
All of which suggests that, based on incumbency and expectations, campaign fundraisers probably weren’t working the phones and luncheons as much as the previous election.
By the way, there’s a widespread assumption that candidates somehow become beholden to those who give them major campaign contributions.
Experience, law and logic suggests otherwise. For a politician to be in a conflict of interest, there must be direct benefit to him or her for voting in a certain way.
While there have been conflict allegations in other cities, I’ve never known of a successful local candidate to vote according to who contributed a few dollars or even a few thousand to his or her campaign.
It’s just not worth it.