Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Campaigning Against Dirty Money

Provided that the Federal Accountability Act isn't completely gutted by the time it gets out of committee and into third reading, it's going to be much more difficult for parties and campaigns to coast along on big donations from business, labour and interest groups.

Campaign financing is going to depend on building a broader base of smaller donors.

Very good for the Conservatives, who now get to enshrine our competitive advantage in law.

Not so good for the Liberals and NDP, who now have to start playing catch-up.

And much worse for the likes of Belinda Stronach and other rich dilletant opportunists who once planned to buy their way into high office:

Part 1 also amends the Canada Elections Act to

(a) reduce to $1,000 the amount that an individual may contribute annually to a registered party, and create a distinct $1,000 annual limit on contributions to the registered associations, the nomination contestants and the candidates of a registered party;

(b) reduce to $1,000 the amount that an individual may contribute to an independent candidate or to a leadership contestant;

(c) reduce to $1,000 the amount that a nomination contestant, a candidate or a leadership contestant may contribute to his or her own campaign in addition to the $1,000 limit on individual contributions;

(d) totally ban contributions by corporations, trade unions and associations by repealing the exception that allows them to make an annual contribution of $1,000 to the registered associations, the candidates and the nomination contestants of a registered party and a contribution of $1,000 to an independent candidate during an election period;

(e) ban cash donations of more than $20, and reduce to $20 the amount that may be contributed before a receipt must be issued or, in the case of anonymous contributions following a general solicitation at a meeting, before certain record-keeping requirements must be met; and

(f) increase to 5 years after the day on which the Commissioner of Canada Elections became aware of the facts giving rise to a prosecution, and to 10 years following the commission of an offence, the period within which a prosecution may be instituted.

As necessary as this law is, harbour no illusions about its potential to completely eliminate the influence and practice of big money politics.

Motivated donors can always find a way to get money to the right pockets.

This law will do nothing to prevent unions, businesses and organizations from making disbursements to reliable members and employees with the understanding that the money will go where the boss orders it to be sent.

Expect party and leadership campaign donor lists to be full of $1,000 donations from hitherto unknown and otherwise apolitical donors--Joe on the GM assembly line, Jane the ad agency receptionist, Bill in the lobby group's mail room.

But at least they'll have to try a little harder to buy votes and influence.


arctic_front said...

Good for Harper. Its about time that mere money hasn't the influence that is has in the past when it comes to our nation's governance. Honest working people might have an extra thousand dollars to contribute, but not many. The trade unions and professional associations sure do....and so do the big business types as well. The sooner their voices are downed out by the voice of the common citizens of this land, the better. Democracy can only be the winner and corruption the loser in this scenario.

Pamela Martin said...

This business about political contributions is just Harper tinkering a little with the measures that Chretien brought in. All show, no substance.