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July 23, 2016

Digging Deeper: Canadian Federal Elections

Digging Deeper: Disciples clergy, lay leaders, and advocates talk about the justice issues that matter to them.

It was 1974. Pierre Elliot Trudeau was Canadian Prime Minister and the Federal Liberal Party was in power.  It was a close election and the Liberals barely won enough seats to form the government. The Conservatives were heavily financed by corporations and wealthy individuals.  In response the ruling, Liberals passed the Canada Elections Act that has been updated but remains in effect today.

This Act restricts private donations to $2,200.00 per year and splits those donations 50/50 between the federal party and an individual’s own local member of Parliament. Donating the full amount qualifies you for a tax deduction of $592.00. As of January 2007, corporations and unions are no longer allowed to make political contributions.

Elections Canada is the watchdog for elections and political parties that run candidates. For the 2015 election, the maximum that could be spent by an individual running for office was $279,000. The highest amount actually spent by a candidate was $221,000. The average amount spent by a Conservative candidate was $95,000, a Liberal $75,000, a New Democrat $55,000, and the Green Party $12,000. Recently, PAC’s have started backing both progressive and conservative parties and the present government is addressing this issue.

The Prime Minister is the leader of the winning party and a Member of Parliament just like all the others. The PM is accountable to their constituency, the federal party, and the greater whole of Canada. Rather than a lengthy slug of primaries and caucuses and all the wear and tear on candidates—not to mention the expense—Canadian elections are very short and last merely four to six weeks. Last year’s election was one of the longest ever and still only took 74 days. Elections need to be held at least every six years but can be shorter when the ruling party has received a major setback.

Overall, elections in Canada have been less visceral than those in the United States. How might the U.S. implement similar changes to get big money out of American politics?

The Rev. Rick Myer is the coordinator of the Disciples Centre for Public Witness in Canada and a member of the Board of Governors of the Disciples Center for Public Witness.  He has served as moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada and as the Disciples representative to the Justice and Advocacy Commission of the Canadian Council of Churches.

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