Vive Le Canada

Election Financing Comes Clean
Date: Wednesday, January 03 2007

I'm wondering how the old boys will get around this? More Joe Volpe "all in the family" kinds of donations? 4Canada

January 03, 2007
Carol Goar

Thanks to an unlikely trio of protagonists, Canada entered 2007 with the cleanest election financing system in its history.

The new rules took effect on Monday. No longer can corporations, unions or professional associations make political donations. No longer can individuals contribute more than $1,100 a year to a federal political party. No longer can anyone give more than $1,110 to an election candidate or a national leadership contender. No longer are cash contributions exceeding $20 allowed.

At these prices, political power cannot be bought.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper set the strict new contribution limits, building on the reforms put in place by former prime minister Jean Chrétien in 2003. Both men were working from a blueprint drafted by former New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent in 2002.

The three politicians did not collaborate. They did not share a vision or a philosophy. They barely acknowledged each other's efforts.

But over the course of five years, they revolutionized the way politics is practised in Canada.

No future Canadian prime minister will be beholden to corporate interests, as every national leader from Sir John A. Macdonald to Paul Martin has been to some degree. Big Business will never be able to mount another massive blitz, as it did in the 1988 election, to promote free trade with the United States. The era of $5,000-a-plate political fundraisers (at least at the federal level) is over.

Because this story has no single hero and no sudden breakthrough, it hasn't made headlines. But from a citizen's point of view, it ranks as one of the most positive – and surprising – developments of 21st-century politics.

Who would have believed, at the dawn of the millennium, that Chrétien, who had raked in millions at fundraising dinners, would pull the plug on corporate donations?

Who would have believed the Liberal party, whose president Stephen LeDrew denounced Chrétien's plan as "dumb as a bag of hammers," would enact the ban?

Who would have believed Harper, champion of free markets and opponent of government regulations, would retain and strengthen Chrétien's reforms?

Who would have believed Broadbent, supported by the autoworkers for 14 years as NDP leader and 21 years as MP for Oshawa, would propose an end to political donations by unions?

Most of all, who would have believed that a political system tainted by the sponsorship scandal, infected by public cynicism and dependent on corporate largesse would be getting cleaner and more transparent by 2007?

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 4, 2007]

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