Candidates don’t usually spend their allowed maximum in municipal races

By Kirk Winter

Candidates running in municipal elections require funding to pay for a range of expenses which include lawn signs, election pamphlets and advertising opportunities offered by local radio, television and print media. But most don’t come anywhere near their spending limits.

Cathie Ritchie, the city clerk and municipal election returning officer, sent out a reminder on Sept. 26 to all the candidates participating in the municipal election of what their spending limits were and how much money they and their spouse could contribute themselves to their own campaign.

The basic formula is mandated by the Municipal Elections Act 1996 with the final amount of expenditure varying from one race to the next.

 For example, the six candidates wanting to be mayor of Kawartha Lakes can spend a maximum of $68,071.85 on their campaigns. This number is calculated by the following formula:  $7500 plus $.85 for each of the 71,261 municipal voters registered as of September 15, 2022.

Candidates and their spouses are allowed to contribute $21,752.20 to help self-fund a mayoral challenge.

If the campaign of 2018 is any indication, it is expected that few candidates will need anything close to the $68,071.85 allowed to fund their election fights. Andy Letham won re-election in 2018 with election expenses of only $21,430.06, of which $5,000 was spent on signage.

Races for ward councillors see much less money designated for campaign expenses with no candidate in the local 2022 race allowed to spend more than $13,654.70. Candidates for council and their spouse may contribute up to $7,036.40 depending upon their ward and its overall population.

In Ward One the total spending cap is $13,513.60, Ward Two $11,849.30, Ward Three $12,315.95, Ward Four $11,869.90, Ward Five $13,654.70, Ward Six $12,070.30, Ward Seven $13,650.45 and Ward Eight $11,620.50.

School board candidates, both public and separate, who cover geographic areas that often contain more that one council ward, are allowed to spend more than council candidates. For example, candidates for school board in Ward 1 and Ward Four are capped at $19,441.50. In a recognition of the very limited fundraising opportunities that exist for trustee hopefuls, in Kawartha Lakes at least, the provincial formula allows school board candidates to self-fund their entire campaigns.

A number of school board candidates contacted by The Advocate were initially stunned by how much they could legally spend, suggesting that their total election campaign budgets were more typically a $1,000.00 to pay for a few signs and a little bit of print advertising.

In 2018, in the only trustee race that was not acclaimed, victorious incumbent Don Alton spent $635 and his unsuccessful challenger Frank Arnold spent $1,657.

Ritchie reminded candidates that their expenses and contributions will need to be audited after the October 24 vote “unless the total contributions received and total expenses incurred in the election campaign are each equal to or less than $10,000.”

If audited expenses are not provided to the city clerk in a timely manner after the vote the individual will be banned from running again in any municipal race or being appointed to any municipal board of any kind. This has happened to 2018 mayoral runner-up Gord James, Ward Two candidate Jim Greensides and French separate board trustee Balonda Nkongolo who did not file the required paperwork “either at all or on time.” 

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