ELECTIONS 2010: Reasons to seek municipal office – and rules to be followed

Even some veteran politicians were a little surprised at the rule changes that are in force with the coming municipal elec­tion.


Ministry of Municipal Af­fairs advisors Tim Ryall and Mau­reen Beatty were speak­­­ers at a special meeting ar­ranged by six municipal clerks for all candidates in Wellington Coun­ty on Aug. 12 at the coun­ty coun­cil chambers in Guelph. Over 30 candidates attended.

Councillor duties

They began with the role of a councillor, noting candidates are all civic minded, with a de­sire to help the community. The job is to represent the public and consider the well being and interest of the munici­pality.

Ryall emphasized several points for those seeking a coun­cil seat. First, if elected by ward, the candidate has to rep­resent the entire munici­pality, and not just that ward. Ryall pointed out that, for spe­cial interest candidates, once their issue is completed, there is still a four year term to com­plete – a big commitment.

Finally, he warned, coun­cil­lors will face “huge expecta­tions with limited resources.”

Councillors develop and evaluate policies and pro­grams the municipality of­fers, and staff implements them. He warned each councillor is only “part of a group that makes decisions.”

Councillors determine what services the municipality pro­vides, and it is their job to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality. They will have to carry out the duties of council under all other acts, such as from the province. Another duty is to ensure ad­ministrative and controllership policies, prac­tices, and procedures are in place to implement decisions of council.

Councillors must also en­sure the accountability and trans­parency of the operations of the municipality, including the activities of the senior man­agement.

The mayor has the same duties as a councillor, and others, too. First, the mayor acts as the chief executive officer.

Ryall said that is new, a change in the Municipal Act. The mayor presides over council meetings so business is done efficiently and effectively. He (or she) provides leader­ship to council, provides infor­mation and recommen­dations to coun­cil on policies, prac­tic­es, pro­ce­dures, to ensure ac­counta­bility and trans­parency.

The mayor also represents the municipality at official func­tions and carries out duties of the head of council under all acts. That includes upholding and promoting the purposes of the municipality.

It also includes promoting public involvement in local government, acting as a rep­re­sentative and promoting the municipality locally and else­where, participating in and fostering activities that enhance the economic, social, and envi­ron­mental well being of the muni­cipality and its residents.

Ryall said the mayor is the CEO only in the context of the legislation that created the posi­­tion. He added something that many candidates were not aware of – the mayor must vote on all issues. Any non-vote is considered a negative vote. In the past, the mayor often voted only to break a tied vote, but that is now changed.

Together, the mayor and council conduct meetings, pass bylaws, develop policies – all together. The policies can in­clude transparency, notice, dele­­gation, and hiring.

Ryall said it is the role of staff to implement council de­cisions, and he noted that the definition and duties of the clerk are much longer and more detailed in legislation than those of a councillor. He urged if candidates have questions about running, they should contact their clerk.

In comparing the roles of council and staff, Ryall said council’s job is governing, pol­icy decisions, other decisions, financial work, and evaluation of policies, and choosing what must be done. It is the duty of staff to re­search and provide good in­for­mation, advice, im­plement coun­cil decisions, and admin­istrative practices. Their role is delivering what council wants.

Ryall said the role of a school board trustee is similar. Trustees are members of a team, the community’s advocate for public education, re­sponsible for establishing policy, and participating in making deci­sions that benefit the whole board, while representing the interests of constituents.

There is no formal defini­tion of a school board chair­man.

Election rule changes

Nomination day’s deadline is Sept. 10, at 2pm. Ryall noted many municipal offices close at 4:30pm, so it was impractical to continue with a 5pm dead­line.

The filing fee is $200 for mayor, and $100 for all other offices. The clerk will provide an estimate of how much can­didates can spend for their cam­paigns.

Ryall said even candidates who are not planning to raise funds for their campaign, must have any expenditures run through their official campaign bank account. Several candi­dates noted they had trouble setting those up at one bank, and Ryall guessed (correctly) it was TD Canada Trust. He said someone at that head office was having difficulties distin­guish­­ing pro­vin­cial and municipal cam­paigns. He said the account must specifically state “in the name of the campaign.”

Several candidates said they had difficulty with that bank.

Ryall warned that candi­dates cannot use cred­it cards or money from other accounts for campaign expenses. “You can’t buy on PayPal,” he added. He also urged to “Get receipts.”

He said the deadline for withdrawing a candidacy is the same as the deadline for filing. He explained with the cam­paign starting in January, candidates know soon enough if they want to withdraw. Further, he highly recommended can­didates go personally to the municipal office is they wish to withdraw.

Each candidate’s campaign period begins when he files, and ends on Dec. 31. That gives opportunities to cover de­ficits.

The deadline for filing financial statements is on March 25 at 2pm in 2011, and Ryall said he can practically guarantee some veteran councillors will be late or make er­rors that will cause them grief – and headlines.

“Every candidate [even those who lost] has to file on March 25. Anyone with over $10,000 in expenditures has to provide an audited statement.”

“Don’t be late,” he warned. “Penalties are severe.”

Ryall also warned that filing statements in this election is “very detailed.” Finally, all candidates must hold their financial records until 2014.

Ryall said all campaign contributions must be noted, and the limits on them respec­ted, including the value of goods and services donated. All expenses except the nomina­tion filing fee must be paid from the election bank account.

Receipts must be issued for every contribution and every expense. Candidates must keep those receipts, plus state if a contribution is in the form of money, goods, or services, the contributor’s name and ad­dress, and every expense, in­cluding receipts obtained for each expense.

Spending limits

Those running for mayor are allowed to spend $7,500 plus $0.85 cents for every elector. All other offices have the limit of $5,000 plus $0.85 per elector. There is a limit of $750 that anyone, including a union, business, or person can make to any one candidate, and a total limit of $5,000 on campaign contributions.

Campaign expenses include any costs incurred for goods and services in relation to the election. That includes replace­ment value of any goods held in inventory from a previous election.

Ryall warned candidates, “Don’t put more into your account if you don’t intend to spend it.” That is because any excess campaign funds no longer stay with the campaigner, but must be turned over to the muni­cipality and put into its general revenues. Surpluses can also be used for recount costs or court challenges.

Candidates who obtain two per cent of the total vote re­ceive their filing fees back.

When it comes to exemp­tions for campaigning expens­es, those include fundraising parties where the sole purpose is to raise money for a cam­paign, and any parties for volunteers would not qualify.

When it comes to campaign contributions, candidates can ac­cept cash up to $25. Any­thing over that must come in the form of a cheque or money order, and candidates must ob­tain the name and address of donors. The ticket price of a fundraiser is considered a contribution.

Ryall said no anonymous contributions are allowed except for the pass-the-hat collections and the maximum given must be $10. He said any $100 bills would go directly to the municipality – or the candidate will face audit problems.

Other exemptions include court actions for a contested election, recounts, a compli­ance audit, and, new this year, expenses incurred by a candi­date with a disability that are directly related to the disability.

Finally, audit and account­ing fees are exempt.

There are also provisions for borrowing. Loan guarantees can be made only by a can­didate or spouse, and the load come only from a bank or other recognized lending institution in Ontario. Those who can contribute to a campaign include people living in Ontario, corporations that do business in On­tario, unions that hold bargaining rights for employees in the province, and a candidate or his spouse.

Those can’t contribute in­clude a federal or provincial party, constituency association or a registered candidate in a federal or provincial election, or a registered provincial lead­ership candidate.

Others include a federal or provincial government, a muni­cipality or a school board.

Ryall said that last group might seem obvious, but “It comes up all the time” when municipalities pay for mailouts for councillors. It is perceived as a contribution and is covered by the Elections Act.

The campaign officially clos­es on Dec. 31, but candi­dates can ask for an extension to continue fundraising by con­tacting the municipal clerk. He recommended doing that well before Christmas – because most municipal offices are closed over Christmas.

The financial filing forms are prescribed by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, and such statements exceeding $10,000 must be audited. All contributors over $100 must be reported on the financial state­ments.

Councils must appoint a compliance audit committee of between three and seven mem­bers that are not em­ployees or officers of the municipality or local board or any candidates.

Voters’ lists

Each candidate is entitled to one municipal voters’ list, and it can be used only for cam­paigning, and not for such things as business lists. Further, the candidates must ask in writing to the clerk for the list.

The clerk is permitted to revise the list, upon applica­tion.

Voting methods

Councils decided how peo­ple would vote before June 1.

In Wellington County, the municipalities are voting by the following methods:

– Guelph-Eramosa, tradi­tion­­al paper ballots

– Puslinch, paper ballots;;

– Erin, mail in ballot;

– Centre Wellington, mail in ballot;

– Mapleton, mail in ballot;

– Minto, mail in ballot; and

– Wellington North, traditional paper ballots.

There are no age restric­tions for scrutineers. Candi­dat­es must provide written auth­ori­zation for scrutineers, and their oath of secrecy is optional. During the election process, only one candidate or scruti­neer is allowed per ballot box.

There is absolutely no campaigning within the voting place, and that includes carry­ing campaign literature. Min­istry representative Maur­een Beatty said some clerks actually declare an entire prop­erty the election place so people cannot drive up to the polling station with advertising on the vehicle.

She urged all candidates “to respect the process.”