Category Archives: Election Finance

“Brexit: Electoral Commission reopens probe into Vote Leave”

From the UK here is an interesting matter involving election finance limits from the Brexit referendum: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-42055523

Was the paying of the bills of a third party in accordance with the rules, or did it result in the Leave campaign exceeding the spending limits?

That will be up to the Electoral Commission to decide and then surely for the courts to adjudicate. An interesting set of facts that provides insight into just how much money is involved in elections and the steps that political actors take to spend as much money as possible without running afoul of the election finance laws that seek to limit their influence.

Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta Strikes Down $1000 Deposit Requirement for Federal Election Candidates

Good news for independent candidates!

On October 25, 2017, the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta struck down the provision of the Election Act that required candidates in federal elections to provide a $1,000 deposit.

The judge ruled that the deposit requirement was in breach of section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides that: “Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.”

In declaring the deposit requirement unconstitutional, the judge wrote that the $1000 deposit requirement deprived otherwise serious but financially challenged candidates from presenting or communicating their ideas and opinions to the general public.

As a result of this decision, Elections Canada announced that it would no longer require prospective candidates to provide the $1000 deposit: http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=med&document=nov0817&dir=pre&lang=e#top

The decision is from Szuchewycz v Canada (Attorney General), which is available here: http://canlii.ca/t/hmqj6

“From attack to apology in a split second; the NDP fundraising uproar”

Don Braid writes in the Calgary Herald about a fundraising ethics mess that the Alberta NDP created for themselves by coming up with a fundraising plan that involves selling tickets to “Join Premier Rachel Notley, cabinet, and MLAs for the evening to discuss issues facing the province that are important to you.” – http://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/braid-from-attack-to-apology-in-a-split-second-the-ndp-fundraising-uproar

These fundraisers illustrate the very fine line that divides naked, pay-to-play corruption schemes and legitimate political fundraisers where MLAs are in attendance.

It is very difficult for a party in power to claim that selling access to their MLAs who are in cabinet should not be viewed as selling access to government. It is also difficult to avoid the perception that those who have $250 to spend will have their views heard by the government, while those without the $250 will not.

What do you think of the Ethics Commissioner’s take on this fundraiser? Does it really matter, as the ethics commissioner has advised, that the advertisement for the fundraiser took out the positions of the NDP MLAs who would be attending? Does anyone not know that Rachel Notley is not only an MLA, but also the Premier? How does that change to the advertisement make any practical difference?

Governing parties must be very aware of the perception that these types of fundraisers create, and question whether the financial benefit is worth the perception of corruption, which while may be proven, is impossible to disprove.

Loophole Allows Third Parties to Keep their Backers Secret

Well-prepared third parties may be able to keep the names of their financial backers a secret thanks to a loophole in the Canada Elections Act.

The Elections Act regulates third party election advertising in two ways.

First, the Act places limits on how much third parties can spend on election advertising.

Second, the Act provides some transparency on how third parties are funded by requiring them to file a report if they spend more than $500 on election advertising. This report must include the names and addresses of those who contribute more than $200 for election advertising purposes.

This is where the loophole lies, as third parties do not have to include everyone who contributes more than $200 in their report.

Pursuant to section 359(4), third parties only have to report on contributions for election advertising purposes that were received in the period beginning six months before the issue of the writ and ending on polling day.

Therefore, if a contribution was made to a third party for election advertising purposes more than six months before the start of a campaign period, the name and address of the donor is not required to be disclosed.

Well-organized third parties could use this loophole to collect large donations from contributors who wish to influence the outcome of an election while remaining anonymous.

Will any third parties be able to take advantage of this loophole for this year’s federal election? It is possible, especially if they were soliciting donations for the upcoming election before March. With a fixed election date, there is some certainty as to when the election will be called which makes it quite simple to take advantage of this loophole.

This weakness in election finance transparency is a result of the federal election advertising rules not being updated to reflect the existence of fixed election dates. In order to close this loophole, third parties should be required to report the names and addresses of donors who contribute more than $200 for election advertising purposes regardless of when the contribution was received.

2015 Contribution Limit Reminder

Elections Canada has posted a reminder of the 2015 contribution limits that apply for political donations made to parties and candidates:

http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=pol&dir=lim/post2015&document=index&lang=e

For 2015, the limit is $1500. The limit will increase by $25 each calendar year.

Election Expense Limits for Federal Election Announced

Elections Canada has announced the election expense limits for the October 19th federal election.

The expense limits for candidates and political parties are preliminary, and will be finalized once the final list of electors is prepared for each electoral district. As the election expense limit for parties and candidates is a based on the number of registered voters in each district, Elections Canada has posted a list of the limits for each district on its website which you can access here: http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=med&document=aug0415b&dir=pre&lang=e#top

For Third parties, there is a limit for expenses in a given electoral district, and an overall limit:

Total election advertising expenses limit in a given electoral district: $8,788.22
Total election advertising expenses limit: $439,410.81

 

How the Longer Election Campaign Costs Taxpayers More

The CBC website has an article today on the cost of federal elections and how longer campaigns cost more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/longer-federal-election-campaign-would-cost-taxpayers-millions-more-1.3171793

Its not just the admnistrative costs that are higher; the amount of election expenses that will be reimbursed from public funds will also be increased due to the higher election expenses limits (as election expense limits are calculated based on the length of the election campaign).

There is a minimum number of days required for an election period, which is 37. All this speculation about a significantly longer campaign period makes me questions whether we need a maximum limit on the campaign period as well.

Why would a federal election ever need a campaign that is over a month long? What do you think?

“Companies admit illegal contributions to Peter Penashue campaign”

CBC reports on how executives with seven companies have entered into compliance agreements with the Commissioner of Elections, acknowledging to giving illegal donations to former federal cabinet minister Peter Penashue during the 2011 election campaign: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/companies-admit-illegal-contributions-to-peter-penashue-campaign-1.3158576

According to the report in the agreements the executives have publicly acknowledged having made illegal contributions and promised to abide by the ban on corporate donations in the future.

“Failed civic election candidates could face prosecution for questionable expenses”

More municipal election candidates are in the news for failing to follow election finance rules on expenses and reporting. This time the Winnipeg Free Press is reporting on charges that are being recommended against 13 candidates in last year’s Winnipeg civic election: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/A-bakers-dozen-of-failed-municipal-election-candidates–313393251.html