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Analysis of House of Commons Committee Amendments to Bill C-24 re: Federal Political Donations
(June 6, 2003)

For an analysis of Bill C-24 as it was when it was first introduced in Parliament , please see: Bill C-24 Analysis (March 5, 2003)

On June 3, 2003, the House Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs completed its review of Bill C-24.  A report from the committee will be tabled in the House of Commons containing both the amended version of the bill, as well as a series of recommendations on issues to be considered during the further review by Parliament of Bill C-24, which amends the federal Canada Elections Act.

Below is a overview of the key improvements made to Bill C-24 by the committee.  It should be noted that, despite reports of discontent with the bill in the Liberal caucus, no amendments were made that significantly weaken the bill.

1) Individual Donation Limit Lowered
In the original bill, an individual was allowed to donate a maximum of $10,000 total to each party and its candidates and riding associations each year.  An additional $10,000 could be given to leadership candidates in a particular party leadership contest.  Under a joint Liberal-Bloc québécois amendment, the committee lowered this donation limit to $5,000 annually.  A further government amendment allows a candidate to make a donation to his or her election campaign outside the limit to a maximum of $5,000.

This change is a significant improvement, although this amount is still far in excess of what the average Canadian can afford, and it is still significantly higher than the $3,000 limit in Manitoba and Quebec.  It should be noted that the limit will be indexed, so it will increase each year.

2) Nomination Race Spending Limit Lowered
The bill had proposed a nomination race spending limit of 50% of what the riding’s expense limit is for a general election.  Under a government-sponsored amendment, sub-amended by the government whip, this limit was reduced to 20%.

3) Disclosure of Donations to Political Parties Required Every 3 Months
Currently, parties report their donations 6 months after the end of each year, with the result that disclosure occurs up to 18 months after a party receives a donation (for example, a donation made to a party in January 2000 was not disclosed until July 2001, 18 months later).  Under a government-sponsored amendment, the committee changed the bill to require major parties (i.e. those that receive public financing through the annual subsidy) to disclose donations every 3 months.

This amendment will make disclosure far more timely for parties.  However, there are still significant disclosure delays for ridings, election candidates, leadership candidates and nomination candidates, as they will still not be required to disclose donations until .

4) Disclosure of Conditions of Loans to Political Parties Required
Under an NDP amendment, the committee added a requirement to disclose the conditions of all loans to parties and candidates, a significant improvement to the disclosure regime.

5) Other Key Issues - Serious Loopholes Remain in Federal Political Fundraising System
The committee defeated a number of amendments that would have strengthened the bill.  However, in its report to the House of Commons on Bill C-24, the committee is expected to recommend further consideration of the issues addressed by many of these defeated amendments, such as eliminating all corporate and union donations and limiting spending in political party leadership races.  If these amendments are not made to Bill C-24 before it is passed by Parliament, it is expected that these issues will be addressed in the next review of the Canada Elections Act in 2008.

Other issues, including banning secret MP trust funds and providing more free broadcast time to parties during elections (in conjunction with reducing the election spending limit for parties) were not proposed in amendments considered by the committee, but these issues were raised frequently by committee members and are also expected to be addressed by the recommendations in the committee's report.

Aaron Freeman, Board member of Democracy Watch
   Chairperson of the Money in Politics Coalition
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Democracy Watch's Money in Politics Campaign

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