POLITICS

Campaign Loans: Conservatives Plan To Make Raising Cash More Difficult For NDP Leadership Candidates

09/08/2011 06:49 EDT | Updated 11/08/2011 05:12 EST
Flickr: psd

NDP leadership candidates may face a tougher battle raising cash thanks to the Conservative government, Huffington Post Canada has learned.

Dean Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, confirmed the Tories plan to re-introduce bill C-19 — legislation that would force candidates to accept only commercial loans.

Del Mastro said the NDP will be “in contravention of the spirit of the accountability act” if its leadership contestants are allowed to get loans that are below market rates.

“It’s a loophole (in the law),” he admitted. But he said it was one the Conservative government was determined to close.

“We think that the NDP should absolutely abide by that (bill), any loans that are taken out should be commercial loans and they should be fully transparent on that,” Del Mastro said.

The NDP, he said, was fully aware the Tories plan to re-introduce the bill.

“If it is their intention not to operate in the spirit, then frankly we need to know it,” Del Mastro said.

Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher also called on the NDP to hold a leadership race that was not tarnished by “unethical, secretive, unfair and unrepresentative actions by candidates and officials.”

In a news release, the organization said only small loans from financial institutions, as outlined in bill C-19, should be accepted.

“The Liberals 2006 leadership race was tainted by people who loaned very large amounts to some candidates (including two candidates who loaned large amounts to themselves, which Elections Canada should have prohibited because a loan to yourself is, by definition, a donation),” Democracy Watch wrote in their press release.

Currently, individuals are allowed to contribute to various leadership candidates up to a total maximum of $1,100. Candidates are also allowed to accept loans from individuals who provide lower interest rates than financial institutions.

Bill C-19 was introduced by the Conservatives in April, 2010, but it was never brought to committee for debate before this spring's election was called.

The rules for the NDP leadership race will be set by the party's federal council in Ottawa Friday.

NDP Leader Nycole Turmel told reporters Thursday that some rules have already been clarified. The leadership contest will be determined by a one-member-one-vote system, as the party’s constitution states.

There had been some confusion, she admitted, about whether a weighted vote could be given to unions as was the case in the last leadership race in 2003, when unions were given a 25% say.

But party officials had checked the revised 2006 constitution and were now confident that the one-member-one-vote principle could not be re-opened for debate, she said.