Newspaper article The Canadian Press

HarperPAC Heralds Arrival of Big Money in Federal Politics, Kingsley Warns

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

HarperPAC Heralds Arrival of Big Money in Federal Politics, Kingsley Warns

Article excerpt

Big money coming back to politics: Kingsley

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OTTAWA - Decades of work to remove the influence of big money from Canadian federal political campaigns is going down the drain with the advent of political action committees, a former chief electoral officer says.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley says Canada is headed down the road well trodden in the United States, where political action committees, or PACs, raise and spend staggering amounts of money to influence elections, without the same restrictions that apply to political parties.

In Canada, such groups have been known as third parties and their activities are severely restricted during campaigns.

However, with the introduction of fixed dates for elections, third parties have been popping up like mushrooms months ahead of the actual election call, spending untold amounts on ads during a period when their activities are completely unregulated.

One of the newest groups on the block is HarperPAC -- a name Kingsley described as "revealing" as its source of inspiration the big-money PAC phenomenon south of the border.

"We are in, effectively, a free-for-all zone," Kingsley said in an interview. "It took us 40 years of scandal, sweat to come to a regime where we had the best in the world for control of money in politics ... now we are back in the jungle."

Stephen Taylor, a longtime Conservative and former director of the National Citizens Coalition who's now a HarperPAC adviser and spokesman, denied that the group is taking a page from the American political playbook.

The acronym simply offers a useful recognition factor, Taylor said.

"It is really branding to let someone know, within the half second it takes to hear the word, what we are up to," he said. "The name HarperPAC, I think you pretty much ... know, what kind of things that we'll be up to."

Kingsley, for one, isn't buying it.

"It is insulting to Canadian intelligence to say this is not American-inspired."

What's more, thanks to the fixed Oct. 19 election date, Canadians should brace for a barrage of pre-writ advertising this summer, he warned.

There is no limit on how much third-party groups can raise and spend prior to an election being called. …

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