Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Leadership fundraising rules a changin' again - but just for some

Updated 11:30 p.m. below.

The Conservatives love to change the rules surrounding financing of leadership contests while their opponents are ensconced in them. They did it in 2006 to trip up the Liberal leadership candidates then, putting a squeeze on their future fundraising abilities by drastically dialling back the amounts candidates could raise (to a one-time $1,100 amount). This time, however, they're being lenient to the NDP and the new rules will not affect their race. My, isn't that interesting. "Conservative bill will limit loans to political candidates."
The Conservative government introduced new legislation Wednesday that establishes tougher rules around political loans, treating them similar to political donations.
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The Political Loans Accountability Act will ban unions and corporations from making loans to political parties, associations, candidates and contestants. They are already banned from making donations. The new legislation also limits total loans individuals can make to $1,100 — the same maximum amount that individuals are allowed to make in annual donations. Only financial institutions and political entities, such as parties or associations, can make loans beyond that amount.

In addition, the bill establishes a strict reporting regime for loans given, and puts the onus on riding associations or parties to repay loans taken out by candidates if they fail to pay them. It also alters the contribution limits for leadership contestants from a per-event basis to a per-year basis.
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The bill will come into force six months after the it receives royal assent. It will not be retroactive, which means it will not apply to the current NDP leadership race. But Uppal urged the candidates to “follow through on the spirit of this bill” anyway.

The new rules are expected to apply to the Liberal leadership race, which will occur sometime in 2013.
The NDP critic doesn't see anything wrong with the legislation, not a surprise. But he should. This is unnecessarily restrictive and in a system which is transparent and rigorous, $1,100 loan limits are ridiculous and the narrowing of the sources to finance leadership campaigns is also excessive.

So the limits will apply to Liberals down the road. The decision to put off the Liberal leadership was one that the party agreed upon in order to engage in renewal and it was one that had a good deal of consensus behind it. And there is still plenty of upside to the decision and taking the time to engage in that renewal process. There are some good candidates coming forth for the national executive positions to be decided at the convention in January who are and will be speaking to that process.

Obviously, events occurred in the last six months that were not foreseen at the time of the decision making to put off leadership, let's not kid ourselves. There's nothing to be done about that now. And irrespective of when Liberals would have held their leadership, this loan legislation would have been forthcoming. The NDP is quite fortunate Liberals aren't having theirs now. Otherwise, you can bet this loan legislation would have been fast and furious and applicable to them as well.

Update (11:30 p.m.): Greg points out that the donations to leadership candidates - not loans - will indeed be changed from a one-time global $1,100 donation to $1,100 per year for leadership candidates. As the above excerpt does mention. Which change is somewhat helpful (Update: after many Liberal leadership candidates struggled under the $1,100 one time amount repayment limit for years now, thanks). But I don't think there's much disputing that the new $1,100 limit on loans by individuals (financial institutions and political entities can make loans > than $1,100) and the narrowing of loan sources will indeed be ground shifting.

Update (11:40 p.m.): CBC item on the 2006 changes versus the 2011 changes.

Final update of the night: If the NDP has been in support of these loan principles for years, I don't see why they wouldn't live up to those principles right now.