This is the Life: Money wasn’t everything in Creston Valley elections

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It was an interesting exercise to go through the recently realized 2014 election candidates’ donation and expense filings last week. It was heartening to see that in local elections, money spent does not necessarily correlate with success at the polls.

Yes, Mayor Ron Toyota spent more than his four opponents combined, newcomer Kevin Boehmer topped the polls and the spending list, and in the Area B race former town councillor Tanya Wall vastly outspent her largely unknown opponent. But the second-place finisher in the race for town council, Karen Unruh, declared that she received no donations and spent nothing (there had to be some costs associated with the printing of her simple brochure at home, but they were not stated).

Think about it. Boehmer was raised in Creston and has a large extended family here. Unruh moved away in the 1960s, I think, and returned only recently. Her name was largely unknown. Her campaign focused on going door to door. Boehmer did, too, but he also spent considerably on signage. Unruh finished only a couple dozen votes behind him. The good news for Creston voters is that both are already making a strong impression with their work on town council. They are bright, well prepared and have no fear of asking questions.

The other five successful candidates for town council were pretty small spenders, comparatively. None reported as much in donations and costs as the three unsuccessful candidates who ran as part of the Action Creston team. Jim Elford, Jen Comer, Joanna Wilson and Joe Snopek each spent less than half of what Action Creston candidates Arnold DeBoon, Lon Hansen and Penny A.P Anderson declared.

School board candidates were a stingy bunch, with only fourth-place finisher Ken Vaughan-Evans spending more than $1,000. It is interesting to note that the candidates finished in reverse order of their spending. Top vote getter Cody Beebe was the lowest spender, declaring only $148 in expenses. Vaughan-Evans was also the only candidate who didn’t fund his own campaign — most of his expenses were covered by unions.

Conflicts are always a concern with campaign donations at any level of government. But in the Creston area races no donations of more than $500 were reported (excluding the $2,650 listed from John Kettle to Tanya Wall’s campaign — she says the donation was in the form of Kettle’s old election signs, which had to be declared at their cost). If you can buy influence with $500, even at the local level, well, we are in pretty bad shape, I would think.

Toyota had by far the longest list of donors, with 17 contributions of $100 or more. M. Chaplin, the man behind the plan to put a distillery, restaurant and other businesses where the “bunker” now stands, donated $300, and G.F. Oliver Funeral Chapel, which does a lot of business with the town, kicked in $250. Pretty small potatoes if they were looking to buy influence, I think.

I was surprised when, in discussing the donations with Toyota, he pointed out that campaign donations are not tax deductible. Why would that be, I wonder, when donations to provincial and federal parties are? Wouldn’t be that the feds make the laws, would it? I can’t think of any good reason why donations to campaigns for senior levels of governments should get a tax break while local candidates’ supporters don’t get the same break. It’s an anomaly that should be addressed, but I can’t see it being a priority for the current federal government.

I am on record as being a big fan of local government that encourages independence and I can’t imagine that it would be improved by the involvement of political parties or smaller alliances. To this point, my faith has been rewarded with what I have seen of this town council, which has four members who are completely new to the Creston political scene. There is an enthusiasm and determination that exudes in every meeting, and I haven’t seen any evidence of closed minds or disinterest. It’s good to see Joe Snopek back at the council table — his experience is a great asset and he seems to be enjoying himself.

I think there were other candidates who also would have been assets on council, too, and that is a reflection of what a good community we share.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.