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Electoral Insight - Reform of Election Financing: Canada, Great Britain and the United States

Electoral Insight – May 2002

Chief Electoral Officer's Message
Technology in the Electoral Process

Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Transparency is one of the most important pillars of representative democracy. It guarantees the bond of confidence between the people and its representatives. This confidence will be more solidly established if the public's right to know about electoral financing is served and respected. Canadians have the right to know who is influencing the electoral process, or attempting to influence the electoral process, and how it is being done. While the Canada Elections Act already contains a number of disclosure provisions, the election financing system used at the federal level still allows weaknesses in accountability regarding contributions to party nomination and leadership campaigns and the financial activities of local party associations.

In November 2001, I submitted to Parliament my report following the 37th general election, Modernizing the Electoral Process, which contains recommendations designed to reflect the needs of an increasingly mobile, informed and diverse population and to stay abreast of the new and changing realities of Canadian society. More specifically, many of the recommendations are designed to serve the public's right to know the details of election financing and to encourage a more level playing field for candidates and political parties. Some of the measures would also make the electoral process more accessible and efficient and improve the management of the administrative processes involved in conducting elections.

The recommendations are based on the work of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing (1992), the lessons learned from the 1993, 1997 and 2000 general elections, and recent, broad-ranging consultation with electors, candidates, the Advisory Committee of Political Parties, returning officers and the academic community. My report also reflects the eleven years I have spent at the helm of Elections Canada and my considered reflections on the measures that are necessary to reflect the spirit of equality on which the Canada Elections Act is based. More information about my recommendations is presented in this edition and can also be viewed by visiting the Elections Canada Web site (www.elections.ca).

Around the world, legislators have addressed the election financing issues in different ways, reflecting the values and culture of each country. This fifth edition of Electoral Insight reviews the election financing regulations in Canada, Great Britain and the United States, and highlights their different methods of dealing with money in elections and public confidence in the electoral process. In March, President George W. Bush signed into law comprehensive changes to the campaign finance regulations in the United States. In Great Britain, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act came into force in February of last year to regulate election financing of political parties. In Canada, the basis of the current regime applicable for both candidates and political parties was adopted in 1974.

I trust the articles in this edition will encourage discussion. I welcome your comments and suggestions for new topics to explore.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley


Note: 

The opinions expressed are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.