08/16/2012 07:28 EDT | Updated 10/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Capping political donations could lower Quebec corruption

Capping Quebec's political party donations would reduce favouritism and corruption in the province's government, says an expert in public finance.

Harold Chorney, a political science professor at Concordia University, said putting limits on private party donations would help reduce favouritism.

"Basically, it would be cheaper for the public to finance elections out of taxpayers' revenues. We would get a better result because the cost of our construction would be diminished by maybe as much as 20 or 30 per cent. That would be a savings that would more than pay for the extra expense of financing elections, especially if you put a tough ceiling on the global amount of money that could be spent."

Corruption has been a dominant theme in Quebec politics for nearly three years and Liberal Party leader Jean Charest may be feeling the heat more than some of the other provincial party leaders.

The former head of Quebec's Ministry of Transport anti-collusion squad Jacques Duchesneau, who is now a star candidate for the Coalition Avenir Québec, triggered a whirlwind of allegations when he told the Charbonneau Commission inquiry that he believes 70 per cent of the money used by Quebec's provincial parties comes from outside registered donations.

But Charest has been trying to portray his government as the anti-corruption champion. The Liberal Party tightened the rules around the awarding of large roadwork contracts, given Revenue Quebec additional staff and powers to sniff out bid-rigging and formed a permanent anti-corruption police task force.

The CAQ said the Liberal's measures are not enough. During its electoral campaign the party has promised to introduce sweeping legislation to crack down on corruption and collusion issues.

The Parti Québecois said the key is to stop influence peddling by capping political donations at $100 a year, down from the current $1,000 limit.

Charest, whose party has received the most donations, dismissed the idea.

"The formula and the impact of that is that taxpayers will be putting their hand in their pocket to finance the political parties even more," said Charest.

Chorney adds that the party who wins the election will not bring about much change. He said the conclusions of the Charbonneau Commission will probably set off a shockwave when they come out in just over a year.