Photo: Marcel Schoenhardt
EDMONTON—Representatives of Public Interest Alberta applauded the Government of Alberta for the November 28 announcement of reforms it is proposing to campaign and party financing laws.
“Overall, the directions announced by the government represent a significant and much-needed step in strengthening our democracy by dealing with a number of key problems related to the undue influence of money in our political system,” said Larry Booi, Chair of Public Interest Alberta’s Democracy Task Force. “While the proposed contribution limits are still too high, and there is still more work to be done in this area, these proposed reforms will definitely help to level the playing field and ensure that citizens rather than wealth are the driving force in our elections.”
Public Interest Alberta Executive Director Joel French stated that the main elements of the proposed changes effectively target key problems with the current rules on campaign and party financing: “Significantly lowering contribution limits, introducing spending limits for parties and candidates, putting limits on spending in nomination races, and tightening up disclosure rules for third parties between elections – all of these changes will make for a more fair and democratic system. We encourage MLAs from all political parties to support these directions in the Alberta Legislature.”
Booi stated that he hoped the Government will reconsider the proposed aggregate limit of $4000 annually for contributors. “It is an excellent idea to put in place an aggregate total to cover all contributions to parties and candidates, including nomination and leadership contests, but the $4000 limit is still far beyond what most citizens could afford, and is quite simply unnecessarily high. We hope MLAs will consider an amendment to this area, even if it requires modest public funding for parties through per-vote financial support or partial election expense rebates.”
In addition, Booi encouraged legislators to look more closely at the proposed rules for third party spending during elections to ensure that they do not unnecessarily constrain public debate in the course of legitimately limiting the influence of wealthy interest groups. He also urged them to extend the new campaign finance rules to municipal elections through additional legislation.
“Despite these concerns, the government deserves congratulations for moving in a comprehensive and effective way in this important area of campaign and party finance,” said Booi. “We look forward to further action on other important elements of democratic renewal, including electoral reform and more effective citizen engagement in governance, policy, and decision making.”
Public Interest Alberta's Democracy Task Force made a submission to the all-party Ethics and Accountability Committee earlier this year.
Read the submission here.