Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals Agree to Hike Pre-Writ Spending Limit for Political Parties

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals Agree to Hike Pre-Writ Spending Limit for Political Parties

Article excerpt

Impasse over election law reform broken

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OTTAWA - The Trudeau Liberals have agreed to increase the amount of money political parties can spend in the run-up to a federal election -- a price they've paid to end Conservative stalling of an omnibus bill to reform the country's election laws.

As part of Bill C-76, the government initially proposed to cap party spending on advertising at $1.5 million during what's known as the pre-writ period -- from June 30 in an election year to the day the election is actually called.

That measure raised the ire of the deep-pocketed Conservatives, who alleged it was aimed at reducing their financial advantage and rigging the election in the Liberals' favour. They've been holding up progress of the bill at the procedure and House affairs committee, where it's been stalled since June.

The government broke the impasse Thursday by agreeing to increase the pre-writ spending limit to $2 million per party. Conservative members then agreed to allow the committee to proceed to clause-by-clause study of the bill, including consideration of some 300 proposed amendments, on Oct. 15.

Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said she's hopeful the bill can now be passed by both the House of Commons and Senate by the end of the year -- the deadline Elections Canada has said must be met if the bill's many measures are to be implemented in time for the next election, scheduled for Oct. 21, 2019.

"It's time to get moving on it," she said in an interview.

Spending during election campaigns has long been strictly limited but there have never been restrictions on party spending in the run-up to elections. But the advent of a fixed date for federal elections -- the third Monday of October, every four years -- has effectively turned the pre-writ period into an unregulated Wild West, with parties ramping up their spending weeks or months before the election is actually called.

C-76 would also impose a pre-writ spending limit on advocacy groups or so-called third parties of $10,000 per electoral district, to a maximum of $1 million.

"This would be the first time that we are putting limits on the pre-election period," Gould said, adding that the dollar amount can be re-evaluated after the 2019 election.

"I think it is important that we have this limit in place . …

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