Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NDP and Conservatives cooperating to "screw" Liberals?

From John Ivison's column last night:
Nathan Cullen, the NDP House leader, and Peter Van Loan, his government counterpart, have apparently been having productive discussions about passage of C-21, the political loans accountability act, which would, among other things, tighten rules on leadership candidates walking away from loans.
The legislation is intended to address what happened during the Liberal leadership campaign in 2006, when a number of candidates failed to pay off their debts in the required time period. With another Grit leadership contest under starter’s orders, the other two parties appear only too happy to co-operate and pass the legislation so that it applies to the Liberal contest.
Here's a contrast from the UK for you where they have been engaged in discussions on how to reform broader party financing rules:
A Liberal Democrat spokesman insisted that the coalition would not impose a deal on the parties. "The history of party funding reform is littered with corpses. You have to do it in consultation with the other parties," the spokesman said.
C-21 on political loans, and any party financing reform for that matter, should be subject to a similar standard. All political parties should be supportive of the reforms and that should be a litmus test for this type of legislation. Otherwise, we can end up in a situation where some parties are legislating in their own self-interest and not in the best interests of all on a subject matter that shouldn't be subject to partisan gaming.

Here is an excerpt from the Legislative Summary as it stands today with some key things to watch as C-21 proceeds:
Bill C-21 would replace the “per contest” contribution limit with an annual contribution limit (clause 6(2), amending section 405(1)(c)).21 An individual will therefore be entitled to contribute more than $1,100 ($1,200 starting on 1 January 2012) if the leadership contest lasts longer than one calendar year.

2.7 Transitional Provisions and Coming Into Force (Clauses 34 and 35)

Clause 34 provides that loans and the guarantees of such loans made prior to the coming into force of Bill C-21 are not subject to the provisions of the bill and continue to be subject to the Canada Elections Act as it read before the coming into force of Bill C-21.
Bill C-21 comes into force six months after Royal Assent, unless the Chief Electoral Officer publishes a notice in the Canada Gazette indicating that the necessary preparations have been made to put the new requirements of the bill into effect, in which case the bill comes into force on the day said notice is published (clause 35).
If these provisions remain the same, it looks like what was expected to be an improvement this time around for the Liberal leadership race, maximum contributions of $1,200 being permitted on a per year and not per contest basis, won't be happening. It doesn't appear that the new legislation will come into effect until the race is over, by the time this is passed.

On the other hand, it looks like the existing provisions of the Canada Elections Act will apply to loans so there is some flexibility there.

But if, as Ivison suggests, the other two parties are seeking to make mischief for the Liberals, those are two important benchmarks to watch. When each come into force is key. 

This is dry, technical stuff and yet there are other very important implications too. See bullet point 4, for example, of the government's news release which would have huge implications if it applied to this contest: 
Only financial institutions (at market rates of interest) and political entities could make loans beyond that amount. Rules for the treatment of unpaid loans would be tightened to ensure candidates cannot walk away from unpaid loans: riding associations or parties will be held responsible for unpaid loans taken out by their candidates.
The amount referred to in the first sentence is $1, 200.

We will see if the NDP and Conservatives are indeed intent on changing the Bill, as it has been proposed to date, with a view to squeezing the Liberal leadership contest.