City error leads to campaign contribution confusion

Image of Shawna O'Neill
By Shawna O'Neill
City error leads to campaign contribution confusion
Bernadette Clement during her announcement of her run for Mayor at the RCAF Wing 424.

CORNWALL, Ontario – Mayor Bernadette Clement acknowledged on her social media on Wednesday, April 17, that according to new rules within the Municipal Elections Act, she had exceeded a prescribed, personal contribution amount to her own Mayoral campaign by $4,153.80.

The rule, introduced by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in 2018, outlines that certificates must be issued to candidates stating their maximum contribution amounts allowed. Chief Administrative Officer Maureen Adams confirmed that it is the responsibility of the municipality to define the expense limit of overall campaign expenditures, as well as an expense limit of candidates’ personal contributions, calculated through Municipal Elections Act rules. Adams also confirmed that it is the municipality’s responsibility to issue certificates detailing this information.

“My campaign believed that my maximum personal contribution amount was $25,000. Accordingly, I contributed $18,357 to my campaign…” reads a statement on Mayor Clement’s Facebook page. “On April 8, I was advised by the City’s Chief Administrative Officer that according to their understanding, my personal contribution amount would be $14,203.20; which meant I would have exceeded my personal contribution amount by $4,153.80. The following day, April 9, I emailed the Clerk’s office to acknowledge that I had been made aware of the potential over contribution and outlined my understanding of the circumstances.”

“One (certificate) for personal (contributions) was not issued (to Mayor Clement). The error is on the City’s part and the City acknowledges this,” said Adams.

According to section 92 subsection (1)(a) of the the Municipal Elections Act, a candidate found guilty of an offence and conviction, who incurs expenses that exceed the amount determined for the office under section 88.20, is subject to penalties in subsection 88.23 (2). These penalties include that the candidate in question forfeits any office to which they were elected, that the office is deemed vacant, and until the next regular election takes place, the candidate is ineligible to be elected or appointed to any office in which the Act applies. Additionally, the candidate may be liable to a fine equal to the excess as outlined in section 92 subsection (3).

Section 92 subsection (2) of the Act also states that an exception to the rule is made if the candidate has acted in good faith, inadvertently committing the offence or having an error in judgment. In this case, the penalties described in subsection 88.23 (2) do not apply.

According to Adams, if an elector comes forward with a complaint, it will be reviewed by a Compliance Audit Committee.

“I recognize that these rules are new and that this may have resulted in some confusion as to the process. I believe that any potential errors were inadvertent and quite likely the result of having to manage new rules within the context of a busy election season. I share this information with you…because I remain committed to being transparent. I will keep you updated on any developments,” read the statement on Mayor Clement’s Facebook page.

To view the post from Mayor Clement, click here. To view the Municipal Elections Act, click here. 



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