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Lower donation limits, and close loopholes, in federal political finance system

Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch board member Duff Conacher published in the Hill Times on October 1, 2012

Gerry Nicholls claims that the current federal donation limit is $1,200, and that this limit must be eliminated or increased before the Liberals and NDP could hope to raise as much money as the Conservatives (Tory Party spending is not the problem – Hill Times, Sept. 24).

He also claims that restricting spending in between elections by parties, and non-political parties (so-called “third parties) is a bad idea.

In fact, individuals are limited to donating $1,200 annually to each party, but are also allowed to donate another $1,200 combined total to the riding associations of each party (and, during an election period, another $1,200 combined total to the election candidates of each party).

And anyone or organization can also still loan an unlimited amount to an election candidate (a loophole that must be closed immediately by limiting loans to individuals, and to the same amount as donations are limited).

Given that the current average donation is in the low hundreds, and given the average annual income of Canadians is only about $40,000, the democratic move is to decrease the donation limit, not increase it.

If the Liberals and NDP want to raise more money, the democratic solution is simple, do more for more people so that more people will donate.

And if and when an actual fixed-election-date law is passed by Parliament, as part of that law it will be democratic to restrict spending by parties and third parties for a few months leading up to the fixed election date (to the extent that is possible, as an unexpected election could still occur if a vote of non-confidence happens).

For more details, go to Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign