Join the "Money in Politics Coalition" to push for a democratic political finance system in Canada
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You can't give money to a referee at a game. Can't give money to a judge.
Yet, despite the passage of Bill C-24 in 2003, and Bill C-2 in December 2006, it's still legal for wealthy special interests to give unlimited amounts of money, property or services in secret to candidates in federal nomination races and federal party leadership races, and other loopholes still exist in the federal political donations system.
Whether it's big banks trying to preserve their government protections and subsidies, brand-name pharmaceutical companies reaping billions of dollars from patent laws, defence and aerospace companies receiving lucrative contracts from the Department of National Defence, or petrochemical companies opposing better environmental laws -- the major political donors are invariably those with the greatest stake in government decisions.
When these interests are bankrolling the political process in secret, it is that much harder for other voices to be heard.
Many of citizen groups who lobby for progressive reforms in Canada understand all too well the influence that powerful corporate lobbies can use to halt these reforms.
The problems with Canada's political finance system at the federal level and in the provinces and territories are well known. A long series of reports from Canada's Chief Electoral Officers, and even a Royal Commission, have thoroughly examined the loopholes and abuses of the current system. And many of the solutions would be easy to implement.
Every MP -- even opposition MPs -- got to Parliament Hill through the current system, as did every provincial politician get to their provincial legislature. They need to hear from many Canadians before they will make the system fully democratic and ethical.
We think MPs should belong to the people who elect them, not to wealthy special interests.
Democracy Watch feels a common approach is essential on this issue. Every politician, even those in opposition, reached their position using the system that is currently in place. Most have an interest in keeping the loopholes in place, and it will take a large, broad-based coalition to convince the federal poliotical parties that the system should be made more accountable and transparent.
While these changes may appear difficult to attain, the victories Democracy Watch has won by organizing the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition -- including our success in defeating the bank mergers in 1998 -- have taught Democracy Watch that broad-based coalitions can overcome even the wealthiest special interests.
We look forward to hearing from you.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact Duff Conacher at Tel: (613) 241-5179.
Democracy Watch can also be reached by fax at (613) 241-4758, and by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Democracy Watch's Money in Politics Coalition has been formed to campaign for changes to Canada's electoral finance laws to reduce the influence of wealthy interests in Canadian politics.
Becoming a member group of the coalition is very easy. Just sign on to the 10 Recommendations to Clean Up Canada's Political Finance System, set out below and send a note to email@example.com stating that your group wants to join the Coalition.
Fifty citizen groups, including 17 national groups and 33 groups from six provinces and the Northwest Territories, have signed on to the recommendations, as follows:
Alliance for Public Accountability, Alternatives North, Association communautaire d'emprunt de Montréal (ACEM), Association coopérative d'économie familiale de l'est de Montréal, Association de protection des épargnants et investisseurs du Québec (APEIQ), Auto-Free Ottawa, Canadian Friends of Burma, Canadian Labour Congress, Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, Centre for Social Justice, Citizens Council on Corporate Issues, Citizens for Public Justice, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT), Community Opportunity and Innovation Network Inc. (COIN), Council of Canadians (Red Deer chapter), Defence of Canadian Liberty Committee, Democracy Watch, End Legislated Poverty, Enviro-Clare, Forest Protection Allies (FORPA), Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, Greenpeace, Guideposts for a Sustainable Future, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Law Union of Ontario, LIFE*SPIN, Low Income Families Together (LIFT), Medical Reform Group, MiningWatch Canada, National Action Committee on the Status of Women, New Economy Development Group, Non-Smokers' Rights Association, Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group, Ontario Public Interest Research Group-Brock, Ontario Public Interest Research Group-Guelph, Ontario Public Interest Research Group-Toronto, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, Project Genesis, Quebec Public Interest Research Group-Concordia, RESULTS Canada, Saskatchewan Action Committee on the Status of Women, Sierra Club of Canada, Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group, Social Change Associates, Social Planning Council of Ottawa-Carleton, Sustainability Project, Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, Toronto Small Business Support Organization, Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group, World Inter-Action Mondiale.
- donation limits and disclosure requirements are needed for “volunteer labour” donated to parties and candidates during nomination race, election and party leadership campaigns, to close this existing secret donations loophole;
- loans to parties, riding associations, nomination race candidates, election candidates and party leadership candidates from corporations, unions and all other types of organizations must be banned (as donations have been), and loans from individuals must be limited (as donations have been) so that loans cannot be used to influence the government and politicians;
- as political party leadership campaign candidates are required to do, all candidates and parties must be required to disclose publicly all donations, gifts, and the status of any loans, during the week before election day, so voters know who is bankrolling campaigns;
- disclosure of the identity of each individual donor's employer must be required (as in the U.S.) and disclosure of each donor's direct organizational affiliations must also be required (to help ensure that corporations, unions and other organizations are not funnelling donations through their employees or board members);
- secret, unlimited donations to candidates in nomination race and political party leadership campaigns must be banned (NOTE: Bill C-2 (the FAA) bans secret donations to election candidates, but not to nomination race nor to party leadership candidates);
- secret donations are still effectively allowed because the federal Conservatives are not complying with the UN Convention Against Corruption nor other international standards that require the monitoring of the bank accounts of all public officials who have decision-making power (for details, go to: Democracy Watch's December 8, 2006 news release (archive website));
- the penalty for taking a secret donation from a trust fund or violating an order to terminate a secret trust fund must be increased to $100,000 (NOTE : the FAA establishes ridiculously low penalties of $500 to $2,000);
- establish public funding that matches the donations made to any nomination race, election, and party leadership candidate who raises a specific minimum amount of money that shows they have voter support;
- lower the public funding of political parties from $1.75 per vote received to $0.75 per vote received (to ensure that in order to prosper parties need to have active, ongoing support of a broad base of individuals) and ensure riding associations receive a fair share of this funding (to decrease the control of party headquarters over riding associations), and;
- spending limits must be established for political party leadership campaigns to ensure a level playing field for all candidates (spending by nomination race candidates, election candidates, and political parties is already limited during campaigns).