Local and Urban Politics

E02 - Local Election Campaigns: Resources, Rights, and Candidate Advantage

Date: Jun 12 | Time: 10:15am to 11:45am | Location:

Chair/Président/Présidente : Salomé Vallette (INRS-Urbanisation)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Anne Mévellec (University of Ottawa)

Drawing on the first stage of The Money and Local Democracy Project, a five-year inquiry into local election campaigns and how they are regulated, we present early analysis of a large-scale, two-wave survey of candidates in the five provinces that held local elections in 2022: British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Ontario (n = approximately 1,800). By linking the survey responses to election results and campaign finance disclosure information, the project provides a novel perspective on how candidates allocate resources and perceive their electoral environment, and whether the very different sets of rules that govern campaigning and campaign finance in different provinces make any difference to electoral outcomes.

Does money buy votes? Campaign finance effects and resource allocation in local elections: Zack Taylor (University of Western Ontario), Martin Horak (University of Western Ontario)
Abstract: Electoral and campaign finance reforms are believed to improve the competitiveness of elections and the accessibility of the electoral process; however, the interaction between electoral institutions and competitiveness in municipal elections remains understudied. We analyze election results and campaign finance disclosures for all candidates in the 2022 BC municipal elections (n = 2,158). We explore this further through campaign-time survey responses by BC municipal election candidates (n = 566). We find that most candidates do not agree with the statement that the candidate who raises the most money will win elections. This intuition is consistent with the finding that there is no systematic relationship between expenditure per elector and vote share received, even when controlling for incumbency, and that few candidates raise and spend up to the maximum amount allowed. We also find that capital-poor candidates substitute labour-intensive activities for capital-intensive ones, although this is conditional on district size and density, political experience, incumbency, and the depth of candidates’ personal networks. In sum, these analyses highlight the limits of campaign finance reform as a means of increasing local electoral competitiveness.

Do women candidates work harder than men to gather support in municipal elections?: Sandra Breux (INRS-Urbanisation), Zack Taylor (University of Western Ontario)
Abstract: In Canada, although women are still under-represented at municipal level, we know that when they run for office, they have as much chance of winning as men. However, to the best of our knowledge, few studies have documented how they campaign, and more specifically how they gather support (financial, volunteer, etc.) for their campaigns. While there is evidence that the networks of female candidates differ from those of male candidates, and that political experience is likely to play a part in the nature and amount of support gathered, little information exists on the amounts raised and support obtained by women, and how they differ from those of men. Moreover, no one has systematically measured this across a large number of candidates. The analysis will examine campaign finance disclosures for all candidates in the 2022 BC municipal elections (n = 2,158) and, in addition, survey responses by the same universe of candidates (n = 566). We will show how these differ by gender by comparing the amounts and types of support that candidates plan to assemble for their campaigns, as revealed in a candidate survey, to what they actually raised, as revealed in public campaign finance disclosures, and controlling for profession, educational attainment, and political experience. This analysis will open the door to a broader reflection on being a candidate and the possible obstacles that arise depending on the candidate's gender and experience in politics.

Situating the Municipal Franchise in Canada: An Empirical and Normative Analysis: Kristin Good (Dalhousie University)
Abstract: Five Canadian provinces (BC, SK, MB, ON and QC) are among few jurisdictions in liberal democracies where a property franchise exists at the local level. Property franchises constitute anomalies within the context of the historical evolution of Western democracies where property franchises were progressively eliminated. The Money and Local Democracy Project survey suggests that there are deep divisions in support for a property franchise in Canada suggesting that a clear rejection of the democratic legitimacy of property-based voting could be premature. Although this anomaly is mentioned in contemporary debates about extending the franchise to non-citizen residents in Canada, the nature and democratic significance of these local property franchises have been left largely unexplored. This paper’s primary goals are twofold: First, it describes the nature of variation in Canada’s provincial property franchise regimes through an examination of provincial municipal elections laws, situating them in comparative international perspective. Second, the paper evaluates the regimes using theories of democracy and democratic citizenship, critically exploring the case for property voting. More broadly, the paper aims to open a debate about the boundaries of local democratic citizenship at the municipal level.

Experience and resources in municipal elections: Comparing Council and Mayoral candidates: Martin Horak (University of Western Ontario)
Abstract: There is anecdotal evidence that mayoral and council campaigns in Canada’s municipalities are different from each other in terms of candidate characteristics and the resources and tools that candidates use, but these differences have not been explored systematically. Drawing on survey responses from 1204 non-incumbent candidates for office in the 2022 Ontario and BC municipal elections, this paper uses a series of models to test the following hypotheses: 1. Mayoral candidates, on average, have more prior political experience than council candidates; 2. Council candidates are, on average, more strongly embedded in community associational networks than mayoral candidates; 3. Mayoral campaigns are more spending-intensive than council campaigns (when controlling for the population of the electoral district); 4. Council campaigns are more volunteer-intensive than mayoral campaigns (when controlling for the population of the electoral district); 5. Mayoral campaigns rely more heavily on mediated campaign tools (websites, paid advertising, etc) than council campaigns; 6. The differences between mayoral and council candidates are greater in ward-based electoral systems than in at-large systems. The analysis will help us to understand whether and how running for mayor is different from running for a council position, and how electoral systems may shape these differences.