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Proposed amendments to Election Act on loans would stifle democracy.

The Party of Piety has proclaimed that there is a loophole in the current election laws that needs shutting. They want to eliminate political candidates from being able to receive loans from anyone other then financial institutions with proposed amendments to the Canada Elections Act. This, they claimed, is needed to prevent “wealthy individuals influence” from unfairly affecting the electoral system.

I could go into the obvious hypocrisy that the Conservatives are engaging in when they’ve got a Cabinet Minister who hid hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses, or I could go into the fact this seems like a diversionary tactic from all their troubles of late, but Ted has already done a fine job of doing that here, so I’ll approach it from a different angle.

All this proposed act will do is make it even harder for regular people who aren’t loaded with money to enter into the democratic process of running for office as a candidate. Many people who run for office get “loans” from their families or friends to help get them started. If that is eliminated, they will have to turn to the banks and/or credit unions to ask them to loan the money. This is already a difficult process for normal people to get in normal scenarios involving loans. How many loans will the banks or credit unions give out to people who want to run for political office? Do we want banks and credit unions making judgments now on who they deem is fit or has a chance to win office? Will people have to mortgage their house to merely get the chance to run for MP?

Basically, this proposed amendment will further cause our system to emulate American-style democracy, where one needs to be a self-made millionaire to even consider running for office. I don’t think Canadians want that.

I would encourage our friends on the NDP to ignore the temptation of seeing this as another way to try to kick the Liberal Party and realize that this would affect your candidates too; possibly even more so then the Liberals – and to recognize this for what it is: a partisan attempt to cement a healthy financial lead the Conservatives have on all the other parties in Canada. This bill does more harm then good on the democratic process in Canada overall, and will discourage a lot of people from seeking political office – for ALL parties – not just the Liberals.

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13 comments to Proposed amendments to Election Act on loans would stifle democracy.

  • Interesting.

    This ‘loophole’ is what let the Green Party of Canada get enough money together so that it could spend to get a higher percentage of the vote back in 2004. The money was largely borrowed from Wayne Crookes. He gained a lot of influence in the Party by doing that, and controversial issues are associated with him. Discussion of those issues online is what lead to all these libel lawsuits he’s launched, including one against me.

    I’m not so much against the loans as I am having such persons also in positions of power with a party. It may be unrealistic, however, to expect large lenders from wielding power due to their loans within our current party system.

  • Yah, that concept worked really well in 2002 and 2006 down south.

    Well, um, it didn’t because there are no strict limits down south.

    It seems the party with the most money is able to spend a lotta loot misinforming the general public, then spinning it with aplomb to the eager for a quote media.

    Exactly – this is what the proposed law is trying to prevent.

    It doesn’t prevent average people from running for office – it only prevents them from raising large amounts of money from small groups of people. Raise your money from a large number of people in small amounts and you’re fine. That’s a better indication of depth of support anyway.

  • Kuri said:
    “Or, y’know, *all* parties can figure out how to more with less, by focusing on voter contact and meaningful interaction with voters instead of dazzling with ads and billboards and other schlock. Campaigns shouldn’t be expensive, actually. It should be ideas that prevail, not dollars.”

    Yah, that concept worked really well in 2002 and 2006 down south. It seems the party with the most money is able to spend a lotta loot misinforming the general public, then spinning it with aplomb to the eager for a quote media.
    While certainly a part of the original loophole should be closed, there is no reason why average people should be potentially shut out of the political process as candidates like this. If this passes, it will trickle down to the constituency/riding association level, where two candidates running to represent their party will essentially battle either the executive or the party honchos (Corporal Harpor, for eg.) to get a chance to run. If the one who isn’t the chosen one doesn’t have deep pockets, they might as well shut down.

    Oh, but these CONs are experts when it comes to flouting campaign financing and ethics; remember the accidental confession by Baird last year on convention cash? Or that Harpor himself over-donated? Or that O’Connor and Clement may have been boosted by their ties to the military (O’Connor worked as a lobbyiest before becoming the minister) or pharmecueticals (Clement had a nice piece of that pie when appointed minister)… Yes, lets have these guys make up our rules, shall we?

  • I completely agree Scott, and I will be running this up the flag poll as best I can from my little corner of NDP land. Of course, it would also be nice to see some non-partisanship on reforming election spending laws to incorporate pre-election spending now that we have fixed election dates, something I delve into a bit on my blog (shameless plug!).

  • colino

    Zorpheus – You are right. I stand by the thrust of my comment.

  • colino Says:
    May 9th, 2007 at 11:42 am | Quote comment

    Wasn’t the law limiting donations to $1,100 enacted by the Liberal party?

    Sorry, that was pure Harper and the CPC. They initially wanted the limit to be $1000.00, but after much bitching (prior to the Liberal Leadership thingy in Montreal) they increased it to $1100.00.

    Under the Liberals (aka Jean and Martini) the limit use to be $5400.00

  • Will people have to mortgage their house to merely get the chance to run for MP?

    No, but riding association members and other supporters will still be able to put up security for a bank or credit union loan, correct? I think that’s a pretty widespread practise for local candidates, although I don’t know about leadership races.

    Or, y’know, *all* parties can figure out how to more with less, by focusing on voter contact and meaningful interaction with voters instead of dazzling with ads and billboards and other schlock. Campaigns shouldn’t be expensive, actually. It should be ideas that prevail, not dollars.

  • Dirk;

    I’m well aware of the NDP leadership’s position on this.. hence the plea to them to look at the big picture.

  • colino

    “Methinks it was the Conservatives that enacted the $1,100, just in time for the Liberal convention!”

    Youthinks wrong.

  • Dirk Gibson

    Perhaps you should do some more reading on this subject before you post, especially in your call to the NDP not to follow along with the amendment. This amendment was actually the brain-child of NDP Pat Martin.

    http://www.ndp.ca/page/5264

  • Methinks it was the Conservatives that enacted the $1,100, just in time for the Liberal convention!

  • colino

    Wasn’t the law limiting donations to $1,100 enacted by the Liberal party? The CPC now is preventing parties from avoiding that law by getting loans from friends and then simply not paying those loans back. Despite what you are suggesting, banks are more likely to grant loans on the basis of whether they expect to be repaid rather than on who they want to be an MP.

    The real problem for the Liberal Party is that they themselves enacted this legislation limiting donations and now do not want to either live with it or admit that it was bad, undemocratic legislation to begin with. Personally I think this was Chetien’s parting shot at Martin to limit his ability to raise money from its traditional sources and the Liberal Party is now just caught in the shrapnel.

  • The liberals need to call a lawyer.

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