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Group files complaint with Elections Canada about “loans” some federal Liberal leadership candidates made to themselves that are actually contributions that exceed legal limits

Canada Elections Act must be changed to prohibit any organization from making a loan, and to prohibit anyone from loaning more than the current donation limit, and to require disclosure of all donations, and to make leadership races democratic in other key ways

Monday, March 11, 2013

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Canada Elections at Elections Canada about the several federal Liberal leadership race candidates who made “loans” to themselves to enter the race in amounts that exceed the legal contributions set out in the Canada Elections Act.

“When you loan money to yourself as a political candidate you are actually giving money to yourself which is illegal if it is more than $1,200, and Elections Canada must end this charade and properly enforce the federal elections law by declaring these excessive loans illegal and requiring the Liberal candidates to repay them immediately or drop out of the race if they don’t have enough money to repay,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the nation-wide Money in Politics Coalition (made up of 50 citizen groups with a total membership of more than 3.5 million Canadians).  “While the Liberals set an undemocratically high entry fee of $75,000, all the candidates should have done a reality and ego check and realized if they couldn’t raise those funds through donations from many people they shouldn’t be running to be leader of a national political party.”

Democracy Watch also called on federal parties to finally pass Bill C-21 that sets limits on loans made by third parties or individuals to candidates, but to change the bill before it is passed to only allow loans from individuals of no more than the contribution limit (the limit is currently $1,200, and it increases annually by the rate of inflation), and also to close the loophole that currently allows secret donations and gifts of money, property or services (including volunteer labour) to leadership race candidates that do not have be disclosed if the candidate does not use them directly for their campaign.

“Federal parties must work together to finally pass Bill C-21 to close the undemocratic loopholes that allow corporations, unions and other organizations and wealthy individuals to use loans and secret donations and gifts to buy influence over political candidates, but the bill must be changed to ensure only individuals are allowed to make loans to candidates of no more than the current donation limit, and to require disclosure by all candidates of every donation or gift given to them,” said Sommers.

The following Liberal Party of Canada leadership contestants all “loaned” themselves more than the current donation limit of $1,200 to pay the cost of entering the race: David Bertschi ($75,000), Deborah Coyne ($25,000), Martha Hall Findlay ($25,000) and Karen McCrimmon ($32,000).

The practice of leadership candidates loaning themselves money is not new or limited to the Liberal Party, as federal NDP leadership candidate Martin Singh ($35,000) and Bloc Quebecois leadership candidate Maria Mourani ($10,000) also loaned themselves money in recent leadership elections.

Several Liberal Party leadership candidates in 2006 also loaned themselves huge amounts of money to enter that race, and some have failed to repay the loans — this ridiculous situation continues to drag on and would never have happened if Elections Canada had simply enforced the law properly in the first place.

In addition to restricting loans, and requiring disclosure of all donations and gifts (even if the donation or gift is not used for a campaign), the Canada Elections Act should also be changed to make all riding nomination and party leadership races finally democratic (as the Conservatives promised to do in their 2006 federal election platform):

  1. the entry barriers to becoming a party leadership race candidate should be a relatively low fee (ie. $10,000) plus signatures of a significant number of voters from across the country (ie. 5,000 voters from at least 5 provinces), and;
  2. Elections Canada should be given the power and mandate to oversee the entire process for both party leadership and riding nomination races — especially for nomination races which are known to usually involve dirty tricks.

Democracy Watch will continue pushing for all of these changes to ensure, finally, that federal elections are honest, ethical, fair and democratic.

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Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch

Email: [email protected]

Tel: 613-241-5179

Democracy Watch’s Money in Political Campaign