This week Elections Canada announced that it was laying four charges against former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro related to his 2008 election campaign. Del Mastro is accused of willfully exceeding campaign spending limits and submitting false documents to Elections Canada. If the member from Peterborough is guilty of any of these charges, he deserves to be punished. There's no excuse for violating elections laws, and there's something particularly loathsome about the notion of an individual being tasked with making laws for others then casually flouting the law himself.
But we need to also consider whether we're well served by the current election rules -- rules that require burdensome accounting and auditing to enforce. Rules that are too complex too allow an average citizen to assess whether his MP has complied with them. And rules that encourage the expenditure of excessive energy (and lawyers) on finding creative ways to gain value without surpassing arbitrary spending and contribution limits.
The key should be transparency: guaranteeing voters an accurate rundown of how much money politicians have received and from whom they've received it. And that's it. Let voters make their own informed decisions based on the strict enforcement of that one simple rule. Do away with the spending and contribution cutoffs -- and all the of bucket loads of dollars and time wasted on both trying to evade and administer them. Both citizens and politicians would be crystal clear on what is required. And we'd all be better off.
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