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Recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs Respecting Specific Issues of Political Financing

6. Limits on Leadership Campaign Spending

Summary of Section

This section notes the earlier recommendation made in the 2001 recommendations report entitled Modernizing the Electoral Process that "There should also be spending limits respecting leadership contests with the specific amount of those limits being set by Parliament."

The section further observes that there is insufficient data available to Elections Canada to make a recommendation to assist Parliament in the setting of such limits.

Current Law

The Canada Elections Act does not set any expense limits respecting leadership contests.

Recommendation

As was noted in the 2001 recommendations report of the Chief Electoral Officer entitled Modernizing the Electoral Process a leadership contest is not a private matter of a party. Selection of the leader of a party is an extremely important political event. To this end, recommendation 8.1.4, in addition to recommending requiring financial disclosure by leadership contestants, proposed that: "There should also be spending limits respecting leadership contests with the specific amount of those limits being set by Parliament."

Imposition of such a limit would assist in ensuring a level playing field for contestants (and ensure that spending limits do not become prohibitive or exclusionary). Limits set by law would also be enforceable, which is not necessarily the case respecting limits set through internal rules of parties.

That recommendation preceded the political financing reforms, which came into effect on January 1, 2004. Those reforms, among other things, required the reporting of leadership campaign expenses by leadership contestants. Since the implementation of those reforms, there have been four leadership contests either completed or underway:

The Libertarian Party contest did not result in the incurring of leadership campaign expenses by its contestants. The final leadership campaign returns relating to the 2004 Green Party contest are published on the Elections Canada Web site at www.elections.ca, under Election Financing. The final campaign returns for the 2006 contests for the Green Party of Canada are only due on February 26, 2007, while those of the Liberal Party of Canada will not be due until June 3, 2007.

The very few available returns do not provide a sufficient basis upon which Elections Canada can make any further recommendations respecting a generic spending limit for leadership contests.