Election reform

Last week, the provincial government finally promised some reforms which will be in place in November, 2014.

After the anonymous advertisements, polarization and vitriolic comments which defined the 2008 municipal election and its aftermath, it was evident that electoral changes were needed.

Last week, the provincial government finally promised some reforms which will be in place in November, 2014, when British Columbians next elect municipal governments.

The changes will affect third-party advertising, disclosure statements, anonymous contributions and election advertising.

Such measures will help to prevent the confusion seen in the 2008 election. At that time, questions were raised whether the candidates named in the advertisements had been involved in getting the ads circulated.

When an advertisement is clearly marked to identify who has paid for it and who is endorsing it, important questions are immediately answered.

When the one advertising must include his or her name on the ad, the tone will change. Under the cloak of anonymity, it is possible to take a position much more extreme than if the same message bore attribution.

If anonymous ads had not been allowed in 2008, the tone of the campaign may have been more subdued.

While the changes will improve future municipal elections, some questions remain.

Around the province, the 2008 elections showed the problems and shortcomings in the regulations. Why has it taken so many years for the province to address these problems?

More importantly, when online venues such as websites, blogs, forums and social media sites are readily available, will it be possible to stop anonymous third-party advertising altogether?

The changes in the coming legislation are badly needed, but they will not fully stop the flaws which have been shown in past elections.