I wonder who would have won the 2011 municipal election if everyone campaigned with the same budget?
The thought occurred to me this week while poring over pages of financial statements from the last local election.
The amount spent on a bid to win a seat in Sechelt ranged from $108.94 to $18,079.92. In Gibsons that cost varied from $300 to about $24,700. One Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) candidate didn’t spend a dime on their campaign and the most spent in the SCRD race was $3,148. Trustees vying for a spot on school board spent as little as $120.96 and as much as $2,727.28.
That’s a wide range of money spent, and while I’d like to think it’s the candidate with the best platform who gets elected, in the stories we wrote this week, money appeared to make a difference in almost every race.
The two mayoralty candidates who won a seat both reported the highest campaign budgets.
The numbers in the school board race were a little less cut and dry with some who failed to win spending more than those who made it, and the SCRD brought one surprise in the Pender Harbour race with the winner spending less than the challenger. Interesting.
So here’s my idea. What if, during the next election, there was a specific amount that each candidate could spend and no more. Would that affect the results?
I’d like to see everyone on a level playing field trying to get their message out to the masses.
Speaking of getting messages out, the amount of money For A Better Sechelt (FABS) spent to spread their message during the election caught me off guard this week.
The group spent more than I make in a year to create a change on Sechelt council.
Of the group’s $46,201.98 budget, $22,627.74 was spent on advertising, and that advertising took a hard-line approach.
In their ads, FABS accused the previous council of increasing spending too much, of not being transparent, not working as a team, being “dysfunctional,” not supporting local business and not doing enough for economic development in Sechelt.
The only incumbent councillor who got passing grades from the group went on to win her seat again. Everyone else was ousted.
Now it can be argued money made this change — that the huge budget FABS had gave them a leg up on the candidates trying to promote themselves.
The other argument would be that the majority of the community felt the same way, which was evident in the vote.
Money may buy ads and get a message out, but cash doesn’t magically change people’s minds. I think (perhaps naively) that the Sechelt voters made up their minds based on who they truly felt was capable of leading Sechelt for the next three years.
Still, the money question hangs in the air — did it buy the election? Does it buy most elections? The only way I see to answer this question is to try it another way and compare the results.