Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Even Conservatives Agree Bill to Reform Political Loans a Complex Mess

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Even Conservatives Agree Bill to Reform Political Loans a Complex Mess

Article excerpt

Bill to reform political loans a complex mess

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OTTAWA - A bill aimed at closing loopholes in the law governing political loans is such a complicated mess that even Conservative MPs are suggesting the government go back to the drawing board.

Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand told a Commons committee Tuesday that Bill C-21 does not accomplish its goal: ending the ability of candidates to bypass strict limits on political donations by taking out hefty loans that often go unpaid for years.

He said the bill is too complex, fails to close some existing loopholes and actually creates some new ones.

After listening to Mayrand's detailed analysis of the bill's flaws, even Conservative members of the committee seemed to think it's not salvageable in its current form.

"You've raised a lot of interesting points today," said Conservative MP John Williamson, a former communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"It sounds almost like we've gone from a real mess into a swamp."

Fellow Conservative Tom Lukiwski, parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, suggested the government may have to start over.

"Obviously, we have the ability to amend the bill," Lukiwski said. "The minister may want to take a look at going back to the drawing board, so to speak."

Bill C-21 is the Harper government's fifth attempt to reform the law on political loans, all of them motivated by Conservative outrage over allegedly deadbeat Liberals who've failed to pay back loans taken out during their 2006 leadership contest.

Most contenders from that contest went well beyond the 18-month deadline for loan repayment. Three -- Vancouver MP Hedy Fry and former MPs Joe Volpe and Ken Dryden -- have still not repaid all their loans.

The bill makes one significant change that would make it easier for erstwhile leadership contenders to raise the money needed to pay off their loans. Instead of limiting donors to a one-time maximum of $1,200 per leadership contest, it would allow individuals to contribute $1,200 each year.

The bill would amend the Canada Elections Act, making it illegal for corporations or trade unions to lend money to any election candidate, party, riding association or leadership contender. …

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