New legislation would get big money out of politics
If passed, the Fair Elections Financing Act will ensure Albertans – not big money and special interest groups – decide the outcome of elections. It would also create a “sunshine list” for third party advertising.
Proposed changes to The Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act would limit the influence of big money on election outcomes by introducing an aggregate contribution limit of $4,000 per individual contributor per calendar year.
This limit would apply to any combination of parties, constituency associations, candidates, byelection candidates, leadership contestants and nomination contestants. The limit would replace the current maximum contribution of $15,000 per individual each calendar year, which doubles to $30,000 in an election year.
“Albertans decide elections, not big money and special interests. True democracy ensures equal opportunity for all, and these amendments would level the playing field so that political parties, leaders and candidates focus on the strength of their ideas rather than the depth of their donors’ pockets.”
“Last year, we banned corporate and union donations and we are now taking the next step to strengthen the democratic process. Our comprehensive approach is aimed at encouraging fair elections and making sure we close back doors and loopholes that allow big money to flow into the electoral process.”
“The Alberta Liberals have long supported meaningful limits on political party and campaign financial contributions. A healthy democracy depends on the equal consideration of all voters, not just those who are able to donate large sums of money. These financial reforms will strengthen Alberta’s democratic process.”
The act also proposes amendments to limit campaign spending, set reasonable rules for leadership contests and nomination races, regulate loans and guarantees to political parties, and improve transparency in third party advertising.
An aggregate contribution limit of $4,000 per individual contributor each calendar year would apply to all political entities and candidates. Individuals have the right to choose when donating to any political entity such as registered parties, constituency associations, candidates, byelection candidates, leadership contestants and nomination contestants. Individuals could not exceed the aggregate limit.
Over-contributions would have to be returned to the contributor in accordance with instructions from the Chief Electoral Officer. Services and non-monetary contributions would also count as political contributions. In addition, corporations, unions and employee organizations would be prohibited from giving their employees paid time off to volunteer for a political campaign.
If this bill is passed, Alberta would have campaign spending limits for the first time. For political parties, the limit would be $2 million. In an electoral division, there would be a spending limit of $50,000 for each individual candidate’s campaigns. Spending limits for general elections would apply from the dropping of the writ to the close of polls on election day.
The following will not count towards the spending limit:
- candidate travel costs reasonably related to the election or contest, including transportation, meals and accommodation
- care for the candidate’s/contestant’s children and other dependents
- expenses related to a candidate or nomination contestant living with a disability
- audits and other fees necessary for compliance with the act
- petty expenses (parking and gas, for example) incurred by volunteers
Nomination contestants would be subject to a spending limit of $10,000, which is 20 per cent of the spending limit in each electoral division. They would be required to register and report to the Chief Electoral Officer when they announce their intention to seek the nomination, begin incurring costs or accepting contributions - whichever occurs first. Spending limits would be indexed to inflation.
Third party advertising
The act would set spending limits on election advertising by third parties. The limit would apply from the dropping of the writ to the close of polls and would be set at $150,000, of which no more than $3,000 could be used to support or oppose candidates in a particular electoral division.
Between elections, third parties would have to register with Elections Alberta and disclose contributions on a “sunshine list” if they planned to spend $1,000 on political advertising, incur $1,000 in expenses for political advertising or receive $1,000 in donations for political advertising. Contributions to third parties for the purposes of advertising would be disclosed on a database maintained by Elections Alberta. Third parties would also be required to identify themselves in their advertisements.
The new rules would apply equally to all political parties. More details are available on alberta.ca.