A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Will the Writ be Dropped Early?

Most elections have been fought over the now-typical five-week period, but the 36 day writ period is merely a convention and we all know how much respect Harper has for parliamentary convention. Rumours are surfacing that “The Conservatives are said to have a cunning plan to extend the campaign this time around for their own partisan advantage.”
The typical 36-day campaign (commencing Sept 13th) would limit the amount parties are able to spend to about $24-million, this would increase to around $45-million if the writ were dropped on Aug 9th or $40 million if the PM visits the governor general on Aug 20th.

The maximum amount that is allowed for election expenses of a registered party for an election is the product of $0.735 multiplied by the number of names on the preliminary lists of electors for electoral districts in which the registered party has endorsed a candidate
However “If an election period is longer than 37 days, then the maximum amount......is increased by adding to it the product of one thirty-seventh of the maximum amount...(from above).... and the number of days in the election period minus 37.” (In other words increased in direct proportion to the number of days in the election period)

Whilst the electioneering and advertising has already started and has been for some time once the writ is dropped several things change. Firstly registered political parties are subject to the above spending rules however they will also get reimbursed from the public purse for 50% of said expenses subject to certain restrictions.

The Chief Electoral Officer shall provide the Receiver General with a certificate that sets out the amount that is 50% of the registered party’s election expenses that were paid by its registered agents as set out in the return for its general election expenses if........ candidates endorsed by the registered party received at least 2% of the number of valid votes cast at the election, or 5% of the number of valid votes cast in the electoral districts in which the registered party endorsed a candidate.”
On receipt of the certificate, the Receiver General shall reimburse the amount set out in it to the registered party by paying that amount out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.”

Secondly the expenditures by third partys upon advertising for or against any particular Party or Candidate is severely restricted.

A third party shall not incur election advertising expenses of a total amount of more than $150,000 in relation to a general election.”
Not more than $3,000 of the total amount referred to in subsection (1) shall be incurred to promote or oppose the election of one or more candidates in a given electoral district,......( This )“only applies to an amount incurred with respect to a leader of a registered party or eligible party to the extent that it is incurred to promote or oppose his or her election in a given electoral district.”

There is however no restriction upon the Government running “infomercials” promoting existing programs however “partisan” advertising on the public dime is not permitted at any time, and we know how much notice the Harper Regime has taken of that rule don’t we! There is however a restriction as to who can contribute to a campaign.
No person or entity other than an individual who is a Canadian citizen or is a permanent resident...... shall make a contribution to a registered party, a registered association, a nomination contestant, a candidate or a leadership contestant.
Not that such rules have stopped corporations or conservative candidates from ignoring such impediments in previous elections!

Given that the Conservatives reportedly have considerably more in their war chest than any other party there is clearly an advantage for them to extend the “election period” to increase their ability to spend more than the opposition on advertising (and get 50% of it back) and to limit advertising by groups that oppose this dictatorial and antidemocratic regime. I believe that the writ WILL be dropped early and that the Harper Regeme will spend every penny that they can get away with, of both their funds and ours, to demonize the opposition and spread their spin in an effort to retain power.

Personally I find the advertising limits far to high across the board particularly when much of the expenditure is spent simply slamming the other guy rather than presenting their “platform” and intentions if elected. This, and the elimination of the per vote subsidy clearly tilts the playing field towards established partys and more particularly the party currently in power. With Harpers ministers busy out buying the vote with announcements of infrastructure funding from funds that miraculously have suddenly become available just before the election, bribing families with backdated child benefits and spending millions of our money on self promotion and millions from their war chest on assassinating opposition leaders it is far from a equal opportunity election.

If you doubt that money talks simply count the number of anti Trudeau ads during your evening TV viewing and figure out the cost of each of those ads..... if you can stomach seeing that much BS in one viewing!

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Ron Waller said...

Seems like the campaign has already started. A lot of ads already on TV, including ones from anti-Harper groups. In the case of the Cons, the 2015 campaign started May 3rd 2011. (Not sure of the exact number, but pretty sure they spent over $100M of taxpayer money on campaign-style PSAs.)

The good thing is that the timing is not in Harper's favor to pull this kind of stunt. He will have to call an election in the middle of summer when Canadians tend to tune out politics. So the other parties can simply lay low until the real campaign begins after Labor Day.

But I think we really need an overhaul of the campaign system. Makes no sense to put spending limits inside a campaign, but none outside.

Also truth-in-advertising laws should be applied to political advertising. That will stop the kind of ad hominem nonsense we've seen from the Cons over the past 9 years. The electorate is like a jury. Therefore there have to be stringent rules put in place to ensure the electorate makes an informed decision based on the facts.

Rural said...

I agree Ron, how can the electorate make an informed decision when fed a steady diet of BS and very little as to the details of the various platforms.