Councillor Fry calling for local elections reform: Improving public trust, engagement, and transparency.
VANCOUVER, B.C. - On February 9, City Councilor Pete Fry will introduce a motion aimed at bolstering the strength of democracy at Vancouver City Hall through enhanced civic engagement, a renewed Independent Election Task Force, and more robust conflict of interest and digital campaigning rules.
The second reform proposal from the Greens in as many years highlights significant gaps in the updated Local Elections Campaign Finance Act that fail to address fundraising, influence, and even fake news in local campaigns.
“What we are seeing is the use of sophisticated data analytics and tools, such as those used by Cambridge Analytica to win the Trump and Brexit campaigns, have entered local politics in B.C.,” said Fry. “Weapons-grade communications technology is being used to manipulate voters and was used in the 2018 municipal election.”
The motion calls for the province to request the digital political campaigning to be classified and regulated as advertising and requiring the disclosure of such data used by political organizations.
“This type of campaigning erodes public trust in political institutions and can assist the rise of political extremism by creating targeted fake news. It has no place in a healthy democracy.”
Additionally, Fry’s motion calls for an amendment to the City of Vancouver Code of Conduct for Council requiring elected officials to declare and potentially withdraw from the decision-making process in matters submitted to City Council if organizations or their officers have contributed directly or indirectly to their political operations either inside or outside the campaign disclosure period.
“It’s important that we clarify and correct any possible misperception that decisions made at council are in the interest of the public, not political donors.” said Fry.
Code of Conduct amendments would not require provincial assent and result from recommendations by the City of Vancouver Independent Election Task Force in 2017 and 2019, which also highlights the need to increase engagement with voters in the municipal democratic process.
To increase engagement, the motion includes a provision for initiating public engagement to understand Vancouverite preferences for a system of proportional representation. Fry requests a Citizen’s Assembly to evaluate potential options and a reconvened Independent Elections Task Force to review and report in advance of and during the 2022 Vancouver municipal elections .
“Increasing public trust and political engagement depends on voters feeling like their voice matters. Vancouver voters deserve to have a political system that represents them, and their view on how to best achieve that is a vital part of the electoral reform process.”