CKA Forums
canadian forums
Canadian Forums

Author Topic Options
CKA Uber
CKA Uber
User avatar
Posts: 15050
PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2015 6:50 am

Globe Editorial
In the PAC era, Canada’s election laws need an update

The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jun. 26, 2015 6:00PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Jun. 26, 2015 6:00PM EDT

If democracy is the foundation of our society, then money is the water that perpetually tries to seep into the foundation and weaken it. Any country with the pretension of being democratic has little choice but to create strict political financing laws that serve as barriers to the corrosive influence of money.

Canada’s laws governing federal elections are among the best. After decades of trial and error, scandal and lawsuit, our campaign finance and spending rules have achieved a balance that lets the proper amounts of money into the system through well-metered channels, while keeping the basement dry.

This week’s sentencing of former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro to one month in jail was testament to the effectiveness of the Canada Elections Act. Incarceration is society’s most severe punishment, but Mr. Del Mastro had it coming. He was convicted of exceeding spending limits, failing to report a personal contribution of $21,000 to his campaign, and submitting a falsified document, all related to the 2008 general election. (He is appealing the ruling.)

As the judge who convicted him said, Mr. Del Mastro’s actions were an “affront” to democracy. These types of affronts must be punished severely, so that Canadians see that our campaign finance laws are more than window-dressing.

Now, though, new cracks are appearing, and money is seeping into the 2015 election campaign in troubling ways. The threat this time is third-party groups modelled on American political action committees (PACs) that are popping up across the country. The most recent one, announced at the beginning of this week and then bizarrely closed down at the end, didn’t even bother trying to hide its inspiration: It was called HarperPAC.

These third-party groups, including Engage Canada and Working Canadians, are raising money and putting negative advertisements online, on radio and on television either on behalf of a particular party or with the goal of defeating one of them. They aren’t subject to any reporting as to who is donating to them, and they can do whatever they want with the money they raise, right up until the moment the writ is dropped for the general election in October.

Once the writ is dropped, they will have to register as third parties with Elections Canada if they want to advertise during the campaign, and they will be limited to $205,800 in spending.

But right now, it’s a free-for-all. Money is also being flung around by the federal parties themselves, which aren’t subject to spending limits outside the official campaign period. That’s a flaw in the Canada Election Act, one that has been made more apparent by Canada’s new federal fixed-election-date law. If the parties know the date of an election months before the writ is dropped, they can raise unlimited funds and spend it at will during that limbo period, and then start fresh during the actual campaign under the usual restrictions.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the former chief electoral officer of Canada who served from 1990 to 2007 and helped shape the current rules, said this week, “We are back in the jungle.” That is an ominous warning that should be heeded.

If Canada is going to have fixed-date elections – the law says there must be a federal election every four years on the third Monday in October – then that needs to be matched with new rules that limit spending outside the official campaign period. What’s the point of controlling spending during the final 36 days before an election while allowing limitless spending for the previous 47 months? The next government should bring in new limits for party advertising between elections (or abolish fixed-date elections, but that’s another story).

The question of third-party groups is just as pressing. This is the first federal election campaign in which so many of them have come into being all at once. The degree of their impacts on the election’s outcome is still unknown.

But what is known is that similar groups had a huge impact on the last provincial general election in Ontario. The province has no limits on when and how much third-party groups can spend. Several pro-union, anti-Progressive Conservative organizations were by far the biggest spenders during the campaign itself, running alarmist advertising that helped give Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne her surprise majority win.

What is also clear is that these groups are carrying the water for political parties by paying for and broadcasting negative ads. The HarperPAC’s first and only ad parroted the Conservative Party’s well-worn message that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau isn’t experienced enough to be prime minister. An ad prepared by Engage Canada similarly echoes Liberal and NDP platform positions.

That’s free advertising. There is clearly an advantage for the official parties to have groups actively spreading their darker messages. It means the parties could, if they chose, focus on more positive messages and leave the dirty stuff to the PAC people. And it gives corporations and unions, who are banned from donating to federal parties and politicians, a way to contribute indirectly to their preferred campaigns and candidates, and to influence an election’s outcome.

HarperPAC has closed down and says it will return the donations it has received. It didn’t have to, though. There is nothing in the law to prevent it and similar groups from operating at the federal level, except during the brief period of an actual campaign.

Money always finds a way in. Like water, it is not inherently evil – it just goes where gravity takes it. These new players are feeling their way around the Canada Elections Act. It would be best that they came up against some impenetrable barrier, and retreated. ... e25144339/

CKA Moderator
CKA Moderator
User avatar
Posts: 37328
PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2015 7:12 am

Big time!

I don't like the idea that organizations with no right to vote use their money and influence to sway votes. Usually through deceptive methods.

In both countries, they need to go.

Post new topic  Reply to topic  [ 2 posts ] 

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner.
The comments are property of their posters, all the rest © Powered by © phpBB.