Langley council calls for changes after developer donations controversy

The province should review rules around donations, council voted

A controversy about developer donations during the 2018 election has led to Langley Township council asking the province for changes to local election rules.

On Monday, the council unanimously voted to request a review of Elections BC rules for campaign donations and spending.

The motion by Mayor Jack Froese asked for changes to the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act in time for the 2022 municipal elections.

Froese singled out three particular areas, including donations by people affiliated with corporations, unions, or other organizations with interests before local councils.

A recently released anonymous report drew connections between donations from multiple development company executives and several current and former Township councillors, including Froese, Councillors Bob Long and Blair Whitmarsh, and former councillor Angie Quaale.

The donations were made while development proposals or neighbourhood plans that would affect the developers were still under consideration by council.

The report was publicized by former mayor Rick Green.

READ MORE: Developer donations still coming in Langley Township despite rules change

All the sitting councillors have denied any influence on their decisions, and all the donations were publicly disclosed.

Coun. Eric Woodward attempted to overturn one of those decisions during Monday’s meeting, asking for reconsideration of the Williams Neighbourhood Plan.

Froese found that motion out of order, as the plan was put in place more than a year ago and would now be impossible to reverse.

The council ultimately voted to ask the province to review the rules, but not to ask for specific changes to the regulations.

Councillors brought up several issues, including that of council candidates making donations to one another, despite there being a personal spending cap for candidates.

“I know I did it, I exchanged cheques with Coun. Woodward,” said Coun. Kim Richter. “That was not illegal and it was disclosed.”

But she worried that it could lead to formal or informal slates in which candidates exchanged significant sums with one another to get around the personal donation limit.

Richter also suggested all Township business be suspended during the actual election period.

“We continue to vote on development matters, while we’re taking campaign donations from developers,” Richter noted.

Long argued that it was not up to councillors to suggest changes to the rules, only to follow them.

“I don’t think there is an issue, I think the rules have been followed,” he said.

Whitmarsh agreed that everyone had followed the rules, but noted that it was clear the rules didn’t cover every possible situation, and agreed there were changes that could be made.

Froese said he has already spoken to Selina Robinson, B.C.’s minister for municipal affairs, and confirmed that there is expected to be a review of the rules before the next election, the the provincial government will be looking for input from municipalities.

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