FDA FACT SHEET: Calgary Mayoral Campaign Finances 2013

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Prepared By

Mr. Michael Fabris, Member FDA (Fact Sheet tabulation, graphics, and analysis);
Mr. Stephen Garvey, Executive Director FDA (Fact Sheet commentary and analysis).

Alberta municipal electoral process issues from the Alberta Local Authorities Election Act:

  • No cap on campaign expenditures. (Favours candidates better at fundraising.)
  • Cap of $5,000 by individuals and corporations to candidates in any year is inconsistent with Alberta’s per capita disposable income of $33,438 (Economic Statistics Report, 2012). FDA recommends a maximum cap of 10 percent of per capita disposable income ($3,343). (Favours wealthier individuals and corporations over individuals.)
  • No ban on corporations and trade unions from making contributions to candidates. (Allows for the corporations and unions to influence election outcomes, despite the fact that they are prohibited from voting in elections.)
  • With the exception of government funded media companies, there is no regulation of media coverage of municipal elections. (Allows potentially for narrow and imbalanced media campaign coverage, which in turn may impact election outcomes.)
  • The first-past-the-post system or single member plurality determines election winners. (Only the votes of winning candidate count as opposed to proportional and preferential electoral systems which count most votes towards determining election winner.)
  • There is no required audit of candidates’ electoral finances, including their disclosure statements. (There are risks of financial misstatement or rule violations by candidates, which could be mitigated by an audit).

Overall FDA Findings on the 2013 Calgary Mayoral Electoral Finances:

  • The 2013 Calgary Mayoral Election finances illustrates profound unequal playing field between the most funded candidate (Nenshi) as compared to the rests of the candidates. In 2010, three mayoral candidates (McIver, Higgins, and Nenshi) had significantly more electoral finances than the rest of the candidates.
  • In 2013, the total electoral was 668,029. With 93.8 percent of total campaign revenue, Nenshi received 193,393 electoral support or 28.9 percent of the total electorate (including non-voters). In contrast, with 3.3 percent of total campaign revenue, Lord received 56,226 electoral support or 8.4 percent of the total electorate (including non-voters).
  • Nenshi’s 93.8 percent of total campaign revenue is derived from contributions ($54,671) under $100 and contributions ($307,528) over $100. Nenshi had approximately 400 contributors (individuals and corporations) to his contributions over $100. For contributions under $100, there is no breakdown of each contribution amount and number of individual and corporation contributors; so the FDA assumes an average contribution of $50, which equates to 1,093 contributors. Nenshi’s total number of contributors represent 0.2 percent of the total electorate. (Note, corporations are prohibited from voting, so the percentage would be a lower percentage of the total electorate.) The total number contributors (approx. 400) who made over $100 contributions, which comprise 84.9 percent of Nenshi’s total contributions, represent 0.06 percent of the total electorate.
  • Lord’s 3.3 percent of total campaign revenue is derived contributions ($1,441) under $100 and contributions ($37,300) over $100. Lord had 22 contributors (individuals and corporations) to his contributions over $100. For contributions under $100, there is no breakdown of each contribution amount and number of individual and corporation contributors; so the FDA assumes an average contribution of $50, which equates to 29 contributors. Lord’s total number of contributors represent 0.007 percent of the total electorate. Lord is the only mayoral candidate to breakdown his contributions over $100 between individuals and corporations. (Note, corporations are prohibited from voting, so the percentage would be a lower percentage of the total electorate.)
  • In the 2013 mayoral election, Jon Lord despite having profoundly less total campaign funds than Naheed Nenshi, 3.3 percent of total campaign revenue as compared to 93.8 percent, Lord had significantly higher electoral support in proportion to total finances than Nenshi:
  1. Lord had 18.1 percent more electoral support in proportion to his percentage of total campaign revenue. (21.4% to 3.3%)
  2. Nenshi had 20.1 percent less electoral support in proportion to his percentage of total campaign revenue. (73.7% to 93.8%)

FDA Recommendation on the Alberta Municipal Electoral Process

To ensure that finances do not distort election outcomes and to create the fairest campaign finance playing field, the FDA recommends a common pool of funds for candidates: Make public subsidies for candidates accessible and available equally to all registered candidates that meet at least a 0.5 percent electorate support threshold. $150,000 of public subsidies (for Alberta cities over 500,000 population) for each candidate that meets the electorate support threshold would be contributed to the common pool of funds. Citizens and corporations would be allowed to contribute to the common pool of funds. These funds would distributed equally to all candidates that meet the electoral support threshold. (The electoral support threshold would be proven based on previous election results and current scientific polls of the electorate.)

Candidates with popular support between 0.1 and 0.499 percent whether in the form of votes or membership ought to receive public subsidies from a common pool of public funds that can be added to through contributions by citizens and corporations. $50,000 of public subsidies (for Alberta cities over 500,000 population) for each candidate that meets the electorate support threshold would be contributed to the common pool of funds. Citizens and corporations would be allowed to contribute to the common pool of funds. These funds would distributed equally to all candidates that meet the electoral support threshold. (The electoral support threshold would be proven based on previous election results and current scientific polls of the electorate.)

Proposed amounts of public subsidies for common pools for Alberta municipalities:

  • Alberta Municipalities (over 500,000 population) $150,000 (0.5% tier); $50,000 (0.1-0.49% tier)
  • Alberta Municipalities (250,000 – 499,999 population) $100,000 (0.5% tier); $30,000 (0.1-0.49% tier)
  • Alberta Municipalities (100,000 – 249,999 population) $50,000 (0.5% tier); $20,000 (0.1-0.49% tier)
  • Alberta Municipalities (50,000 – 99,999 population) $25,000 (0.5% tier); $10,000 (0.1-0.49% tier)
  • Alberta Municipalities (5,000 – 49,999 population) $15,000 (0.5% tier); $5,000 (0.1-0.49% tier)

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Would the 2010 and 2013 elections had different election outcomes with a common pool of funds for the candidates?

Related Link

FDA Electoral Finance Report of the 2010 Calgary Mayoral Election

2013 Calgary Mayoral Finance Totals for All Candidates (pdf)


Graphic and Tablet Illustrations of the FDA Findings on the 2013 Calgary Mayoral Electoral Finances

Bar chart 1 shows the significant unequal playing field in terms of finances between the 2013 Calgary mayoral candidates.

Bar chart 1 shows the significant unequal playing field in terms of finances between the 2013 Calgary mayoral candidates.

Bar chart 2 shows the insignificant amount of contributions under $100 as compared to contributions over $100. This finding likely reflects the Alberta $5,000 cap on contributions from individuals and corporations per year.

Bar chart 2 shows the insignificant amount of contributions under $100 as compared to contributions over $100. This finding likely reflects the Alberta $5,000 cap on contributions from individuals and corporations per year.

Pie chart 1 shows the significant inequity in contributions of less than $100 between the 2013 mayoral candidates. Nenshi has over 29 times more contributions of less than $100 than all other mayoral candidates combined. This inequity is partly linked to the fact that there is no cap of campaign expenditures nor is there a requirement for equal campaign funds for candidates with at least 0.5 percent popular support.

Pie chart 1 shows the significant inequity in contributions of less than $100 between the 2013 mayoral candidates. Nenshi has over 29 times more contributions of less than $100 than all other mayoral candidates combined. This inequity is partly linked to the fact that there is no cap of campaign expenditures nor is there a requirement for equal campaign funds for candidates with at least 0.5 percent popular support.

Pie chart 2 shows the significant inequity in campaign contributions over $100 between mayoral candidates. Nenshi has almost 7 times more contributions over $100 than all other candidates combined. Although there is no evidence that campaign funds guarantee an election win, there is no evidence that campaign funds are insignificant to an election win. The Government of Alberta puts no cap on campaign expenditures; such a cap would help lessen the impact of electoral finance on election outcomes.

Pie chart 2 shows the significant inequity in campaign contributions over $100 between mayoral candidates. Nenshi has almost 7 times more contributions over $100 than all other candidates combined. Although there is no evidence that campaign funds guarantee an election win, there is no evidence that campaign funds are insignificant to an election win. The Government of Alberta puts no cap on campaign expenditures; such a cap would help lessen the impact of electoral finance on election outcomes.

Pie chart 3 shows that gross inequity in campaign expenditures that can occur when there are no limits on these expenditures. Nenshi has over 15 times more campaign revenue than all other candidates combined.

Pie chart 3 shows that gross inequity in campaign expenditures that can occur when there are no limits on these expenditures. Nenshi has over 15 times more campaign revenue than all other candidates combined.

Table 1 shows that significant decrease in campaign funds from the 2010 Calgary mayoral election to the 2013 mayoral election. Overall, there was an 83 percent decline in overall campaign revenue. One explanation is that the 2013 mayoral election was far less competitive than the 2010 mayoral election.

Table 1 shows that significant decrease in campaign funds from the 2010 Calgary mayoral election to the 2013 mayoral election. Overall, there was an 83 percent decline in overall campaign revenue. One explanation is that the 2013 mayoral election was far less competitive than the 2010 mayoral election.

Bar chart 3 shows the decline in campaign finances for Nenshi from the 2010 mayoral election to the 2013 mayoral election. In terms of total campaign revenue, there is 20.77 percent ($105,935) decline in total campaign revenue in 2013 as compared to 2010.

Bar chart 3 shows the decline in campaign finances for Nenshi from the 2010 mayoral election to the 2013 mayoral election. In terms of total campaign revenue, there is 20.77 percent ($105,935) decline in total campaign revenue in 2013 as compared to 2010.

Bar chart 4 shows the significant increase in campaign funds derived from fundraising for Nenshi in 2013 as compared to 2010. His fundraising revenue increased by over 24 times. This fact may be attributable that Nenshi was an incumbent in 2013.

Bar chart 4 shows the significant increase in campaign funds derived from fundraising for Nenshi in 2013 as compared to 2010. His fundraising revenue increased by over 24 times. This fact may be attributable that Nenshi was an incumbent in 2013.

Table 2 shows a strong correlation between the amount of finance each 2013 mayoral candidate had, and the actual election outcome. This evidence likely shows the need for a cap on campaign finances to encourage the election of the better candidate (in terms of background and policies/issues) as opposed to the better fundraiser and/or the most popular personality.

Table 2 shows a strong correlation between the amount of finance each 2013 mayoral candidate had, and the actual election outcome. This evidence likely shows the need for a cap on campaign finances to encourage the election of the better candidate (in terms of background and policies/issues) as opposed to the better fundraiser and/or the most popular personality.

Bar chart 5 shows that Nenshi’s popularity in terms of percentage of electoral support did not match the amount of his electoral finances. In contrast, Lord was the opposite: the amount of his electoral finances did not match his percentage of popular support. These facts raise the question: what would the 2013 mayoral election outcome be, had Lord and Nenshi equal amount of campaign finances?

Bar chart 5 shows that Nenshi’s popularity in terms of percentage of the popular vote fell short of the proportions of his electoral finances. In contrast, Lord was the opposite: the proportions of his electoral finances were short of his percentage of popular support. These facts raise the question: what would the 2013 mayoral election outcome be, had Lord and Nenshi each had a more equitable amount of campaign finances?

Chart 1 shows that electoral finance is a very good predictor for candidates with high campaign revenue, while a poor predictor for candidates with low campaign revenue. This finding may be explained by the fact that candidates with limited campaign revenue have to rely on other means for popular vote.

Chart 1 shows that electoral finance is a very strong predictor of electoral success, when all candidates are included in the analysis. However, it is a weak predictor within the group of candidates with low campaign revenue. In this group, more revenue does not correlate well with more popular vote. This finding may be explained by the fact that candidates in the group with limited campaign revenue have to rely on other means for obtaining a greater share of the popular vote.