Monday, June 26, 2006

Loan Loophole

Election financing laws, limiting what individuals can contribute to political parties, are supposed to make our electoral system less beholden to wealthy interests.

But so far, if the Liberal leadership race is any indication, all these financing laws do is encourage politicians to find inventive ways to seek loopholes.

A lot of media attention, for instance, has focused on Joe Volpe’s little loophole, wherein 11 year old children, supposedly so enthralled with his vision, broke open their piggy banks and cut him $5,400 cheques.

But less attention is being paid to another possible loophole – loans.

Aside from Volpe, every Liberal candidate is taking out huge loans to help finance their campaigns: Scott Brison -- $200,000; Michael Ignatieff -- $125,000; Bob Rae -- $100,000, Ken Dryden, $100,000.

And interestingly out of all the Liberal hopefuls, only Carolyn Bennett, who borrowed $35,000, is taking a loan out from a bank. All the rest are borrowing the money from relatives, friends or from corporate executives.

Here’s an even more interesting point: Elections Canada says the lenders can “write off” any loan 18 months after the Liberal convention if they determine the loan is “truly uncollectible.”

NDP MP Pat Martin calls this a “loophole you can drive a Brinks truck through.”

He has a point.

What’s to stop a relative or a close friend from saying, “Well, I can’t collect the money so let’s just forget the whole thing.”

Wouldn’t that make the “loan” really a contribution?

Clearly, the system of finance laws is only serving to twist and contort the system, forcing our politicians to spend more time figuring out how to raise money than on coming up with policy ideas.

Why not scrap them? Why not let politicians compete for contribution dollars on an even playing field with no limits?

As long as the system is transparent it would work better than the system we have now.

2 comments:

J said...

I suppose Ken Dryden's creditors won't go after him[self] too hard.

And for all his trouble Rae's brother is probably waiting in the wings for a plump party assignment.

Miles Lunn said...

I agree and I am glad you are not willing to bow down to Harpo. Since you challenged the gag laws, I was wondering if your organization was considering launching a Charter challenge against the new finance laws. Even some of my Liberal friends were hoping your organization would do that.