Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Longer Federal Election Campaign Will Cost Taxpayers Millions More

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Longer Federal Election Campaign Will Cost Taxpayers Millions More

Article excerpt

Taxpayers will pay more for lengthy campaign

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OTTAWA - It's not just political parties that will be spending money hand over fist if Stephen Harper fires the starting gun for the Oct. 19 federal election weeks earlier than necessary.

Taxpayers will be shelling out big bucks, too -- millions in extra administrative costs and tens of millions more in rebates to parties and candidates for their inflated election expenses.

Speculation is rampant that Harper is poised to officially kick off the election campaign -- known as the writ period -- as early as this weekend.

That would make for an 11-week campaign, the longest federal campaign since 1926 and more than twice the five weeks typically allotted for campaigns in recent times.

Elections Canada estimates that a campaign this fall of 37 days -- the minimum required by law -- would cost roughly $375 million to administer.

The agency was not able to estimate how much more a longer campaign would cost, but spokeswoman Diane Benson acknowledged there would indeed be some additional expenses.

For instance, she said Elections Canada will have to pay for longer office leases for returning officers in each of the country's 338 ridings; telephones, equipment and furniture rentals for those offices; additional hours for staff; and Elections Canada staff who handle public inquiries.

A longer campaign puts the squeeze on taxpayers in other ways too, since they subsidize the donations that fuel campaigns and then subsidize parties and their candidates again for spending that money during a campaign.

Most of the money parties and candidates will be throwing around during the campaign comes from donations, which are worth a generous tax credit of 75 per cent on the first $400, 50 per cent on the next $350 and 33.3 per cent on the next $500.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates those tax credits are worth somewhere between $16 million and $36 million per year in foregone revenue.

Each party running a full slate of candidates is entitled to spend a maximum of about $25 million for a five-week campaign; each candidate an average of about $100,000. …

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