The verdict is in, and Sidney's Mayor will be able to keep his seat
Cliff McNeil-Smith's win was under scrutiny after he disclosed that he overspent on his election campaign by $1,877.63, violating the newly enacted Local Elections Campaign Financing Act.
The overage was discovered by McNeil-Smith and his team when they were filling in the Financial Disclosure Statement, which were submitted to Elections BC on January 18th.
Under the new rules, the Mayor had to appear before a BC Supreme Court Judge, which he did Thursday morning.
"We had to demonstrate two things before the Judge. One was that I'd exercised due diligence on the campaign finances, even though there had been an overage, and that the amount overspent did not materially affect the election. And the Judge sided in our favour in his judgment."
He adds that the Judge was satisfied that the overspending would not have affected the outcome of the election, as McNeil-Smith won with 80% of the votes.
McNeil-Smith was also fined twice what he overspent, which he says he paid, along with all the legal expenses, out of pocket.
The overspending was more than 10% of the campaign budget, which was set by Elections BC at $11,349. McNeil-Smith says they were monitoring the budget, but during a campaign there are a lot of factors, which can quickly add up.
"We had a budget, we were monitoring the expenses, but managing campaign finances is challenging given the intensity of the election. Election is a different period of time. There were many changes in campaign strategy, estimates, quotes, invoices from many suppliers. So I accept full responsibility for the unintentional mistakes that were made."
He adds there were many facets that accounted for the overage, which went un-noticed until after the election.
"There was election signs, there was mail outs, there was print advertising, there was a website, changes to the website. There was many different facets to it. There wasn't a large cost to Social Media, but there was some. It was a shift in strategy where you need to have a rush job done for more election signs, or you need more brochures printed for an all-candidates meeting. So it was just a series of factors. It wasn't just one thing, it was a small number of smaller things."
He says during the weeks between disclosing the overage and appealing to the BC Supreme Court, he received a lot of support from the public. McNeil-Smith says he is excited to win the appeal, and is ready to serve the public as Sidney's Mayor and as a CRD Director.