Liberals introduce campaign finance reform

Federal government tabling election finance reform bill.

Prime Minister Jean Chrtien's campaign finance reform bill will cost taxpayers $40 million in an election year and $23 million between elections.

The bill "enhances fairness and transparency," said Liberal House leader Don Boudria.

"It's a huge step forward," said Aaron Freeman from the monitoring group Democracy Watch. But he criticized the funding arrangement.

So did Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper. "The solution is worse than the problem," he said because the bill compels people to support parties through taxes. Politicians should get their backing from individuals who freely donate money, Harper said.

The bill also received a less-than-enthusiastic response from some Liberal backbenchers.

"Here's another example of a one-man band (Chrtien) who composes, orchestrates and plays the music without any consultation and it drives us crazy," MP Joe Fontana said.

"It's not a bill that's going to go through quickly," said MP Derek Lee.

The bill is intended to end the perception that money buys influence in Ottawa by:

  • capping donations from corporations and unions at $1,000;
  • limiting individual donations to $10,000;
  • replacing the lost funds by giving parties $1.50 a year for each vote they got in the previous election;
  • limiting spending on nomination campaigns to half what the candidate in the last general election received;
  • banning political trust funds;
  • requiring party leadership candidates to reveal who gave them money.
Harper said the bill may be unconstitutional.

Chrtien has indicated the bill will be a confidence motion. That means the government will fall if the motion goes down to defeat.

That is expected to limit the backbenchers' resistance.