Limit election spending, contributions, says York professor

A York University political science professor says putting stricter limits on campaign spending would make municipal elections in Newfoundland and Labrador fairer.

“[A high spending limit] clearly disadvantages candidates that don’t represent people with deep pockets,” Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, told the CBC Sept. 8.

He’s reacting to complaints from a candidate in the Sept. 29 St. John’s municipal election who said running is too expensive.

“Absolutely, for an at-large campaign it’s actually comparable to a federal election,” said Sheilagh O’Leary, a candidate for one of four councillor-at-large seats on St. John’s city council.

The spending limit for St. John’s council candidates is $80,000.

McDermid, who studies municipal election financing, says one way to keep money from determining who wins elections is to control who can contribute to candidates and how much they give. “That limits the ability of wealthy people to completely fund the candidate of their choice,” he said.

In Quebec, corporations and unions are not allowed to donate to municipal candidates, and in many parts of Ontario, the individual contribution limit is $750.

In St. John’s, individuals can contribute up to $1,000 to a candidate, and corporations can give up to $2,000.

MacDermid says municipalities can also make running more attractive to more people by offering rebates to election candidates.

Some Ontario communities give candidates up to 75 per cent of the money spent on campaigning.

Cutting the amount candidates can spend might have an unintended benefit, MacDermid said. It might make elections easier on voters’ eyes. “[Candidates] won’t be able to plaster the world with signs,” said MacDermid. “They will have to find some other way to communicate with people.”

  • MacDermid’s comments were aired on CBN-AM Radio (St. John’s, Nfld.) and posted on, Sept. 8.

Africentric Alternative School’s opening is a ‘victory’

Toronto’s first black-focused school opened yesterday with drumbeats and a tradition that children rely on entire communities, wrote Sun Media Sept. 9 in a story about the school based at Sheppard Public School on Sheppard Avenue West near Keele Street.

The Africentric Alternative School, whose 115 students – 30 more than registered last week – are brought from across the city, emphasizes heritage but must meet education requirements.

“The focus is on youth and our culture…a lot of our history,” Alcian Morgan said, as she, husband Keith Freckleton and daughter Stacy Freckleton, a York University student, took photos with the Jamaica-born couple’s youngest child.