Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lack of Accountability

I've spoken quite highly of the accountability act in the past, both during the election and since then. I think there are a lot of good policies in it, even if a lot of the Act needs tinkering (200 amendments and counting...) and the lobbyist aspects of it will create some major problems. Plus, from a political perspective, it's absolutely brilliant since voting against something called the "Accountability Act" is like voting against the "I love Canada Act".

However, one aspect of the Act is really starting to irk me. The Tories (and NDP) are insistent on bringing the Act into law as soon as possible and on including convention delegate fees in the limit. Coincidently enough, the regular delegate fees for the Liberal leadership convention are 995$ which is going to create several huge problems. Since these fees don't include hotel or meals, my understanding of the law is that the entire fee minus however much the Liberal handbag (which I always carry around downtown Calgary) costs would count as a donation. It's also my understanding that the Liberal Party won't be making any money off this convention which tells me that someone on the organizing committee got ripped off royally. But that's besides the point.

The real point is that this law is going to play havoc with the Liberal Leadership race and some doom and gloom scenarios would prevent delegates from even attending the convention if people who are already maxed out for the year aren't allowed to spend the delegate fees. These donations were made and these rules were set under the old system and it just boggles my mind that the rules could be changed mid-course.

I hate to accuse politicians of playing politics because, well, that's what they're supposed to do. But this is a crass partisan maneuver (and, as a Liberal, I know a crass partisan maneuver when I see one). When Chretien's fundraising laws came into effect January 1st, 2004, the Conservative leadership race was exempt because it had been called in December of 2003, even though the convention wasn't held until March. With that in mind, I don't think it would be at all unreasonable to exempt the current Liberal race or even to wait until January 1st to bring the Accountability Act into law.

There obviously isn't a lot of sympathy for the Liberals these days but Harper and Layton's tag team effort on this is just wrong. Maybe even more so from Layton who often likes to paint himself as a deity who is always above "playing politics".

33 Comments:

  • Nope, not a lot of sympathy. Making the entire thing "exempt" might be a bad idea if this convention money is just another Liberal run-around-the-law a la Volpe. But hey, resonable people can negotiate. What would be an acceptable compromise?

    By Blogger The Rat, at 7:32 PM  

  • I really don't care.

    The $995 cost is a joke.

    In this day and age of communications technology the very idea of an expensive convention that only the most wealthy in the party can participate in is also a joke.

    I do have some trouble with the whole $995 counting as a donoation.

    How much of that cost goes to covering the expensive of renting the space, the equipment, organizers sallery, etc etc etc? Only the few hundread dollars that LPC is tacking on to the cost to act as a fundraiser for their debt should count as a donation.

    Maybe the real reason the Liberal Party is angry is because that the vast majority of that $995 is nothing more than a fundraising tool, and does not reflect the cost of the event?

    By Blogger Manitoba Liberal, at 7:43 PM  

  • Bring it on. Fuck the Liberals.

    By Blogger What_The_Puck?, at 7:49 PM  

  • It's also my understanding that the Liberal Party won't be making any money off this convention which tells me that someone on the organizing committee got ripped off royally.

    The reason they're not making any money despite the high fees is because of the travel subsidy. The further away from Montreal you live, the higher a travel subsidy you get deduted from the fees. (If you get a subsidy, your tax deduction goes down). The people living nearby don't get a subsidy, but they do get a substantial tax deduction back on their taxes.

    The idea is to make it more fair and possible for people accross the country to attend.

    By Blogger A BCer in Toronto, at 8:13 PM  

  • One member one vote. With mimi-conventions across Canada for Liberals to meet would be cheaper and a more fair process than the strange PR delegate slection system that is in place right now.

    I hope this is the last traditional convention that the party does. The 1000 bucks really limits who can attend, not to mention familes have a hard time just taking off to another city for a weekend.

    By Blogger polarslam, at 8:27 PM  

  • It is ridiculous, especially coming from Stephen Harper - who in his NCC days would be running around like a chicken with his head cut off over such a law - and Jack Layton - who likes to pretend that he's better than the other politicians.

    By Blogger Clear Grit, at 8:50 PM  

  • great post. like one of cerberus' "Friday smiles".

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 8:51 PM  

  • Harper et al. have a visceral hatred of liberals and thus have no time for the Liberals. In this he's not all that different from American Conservatives.

    The world would have turned out to be a different place, I suppose, if Trudeau hadn't run over Alberta's beloved pet cat 3 decades ago.

    By Blogger Ivan, at 10:11 PM  

  • I think the Globe and Mail, and the Liberal Party of Canada, have made a mistake on this point.

    Only the donation portion of the $995, ie; the portion you receive a tax receipt for, would be considered a donation to the Liberal Party of Canada and subject to the limits in the Federal Accountability Act. If they are receipting you the entire $995, then it would cost them absolutely nothing to put on the Convention - which can't possibly be the case. If the Convention itself has costs of say $500, and you are being charged $995, then you would receive a donation receipt of $495, and still be allowed to donate $505 during the year to the national party.

    Somebody's got the rules wrong - I would suggest the Liberals get clarification soon.

    By Blogger WillBlog, at 11:44 PM  

  • willblog; That's where the confusion obviously rests. If you only get receipted for the profit off the convention, then I don't have a problem at all. Maybe people who pay the full 995$ are overpaying a bit because of travel subsidies and youth rates, but then the party is only netting 2 or 3 hundred off them and that's not really an issue (unless you say that if they've already given over 1000$ in the year they can't go, which would still create problems).

    The Globe and a lot of politicians seem to believe that it's only what people get (ie. food) that gets deducted and that expenses for hall rentals, etc, aren't included.

    Obviously some clarification on the exact rules would be very helpful.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:09 AM  

  • Is there a list out with Convention fees? I can't find anything on the website

    By Blogger YYC Liberal, at 12:31 AM  

  • As I mentioned in my own post on the topic, either the Liberal party is arguing that we're getting nothing for the $995, or they're playing politics. Frankly, the idea that the use of a convention centre in downtown montreal for a few days costs nothing seems a tad... incorrect. The fact that the Liberals, and now CG, are playing this up as an attack on democracy is therefore a tad... deceitful.

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 12:51 AM  

  • gauntlet; I'm just going on the Globe article. If the rules state that only material goods received (like food) are deducted from the price, then the post stands.

    If everyone is mistaken on this and it's cost which is what's deducted, then I don't have a huge problem with it.

    The one objection would be if they say that anyone who is already over 1000$ for the year can't make any more donations. If that's the case, anyone who has already donated 1000$ or more to the Liberals this year would be ineligible from attending and, to me, that would be ridiculous since they made those initial donations under a different set of rules.

    It's obviously a very complicated law which will need some straightening out.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:04 AM  

  • This is an example of an issue that no one cares about. The Tories are not going to lose votes because the Liberals want to charge the "grassroots" $1000 for the privellege of attending a convention.

    Go door to door in any Canadian suburb, where the real people live, and tell them that. No one is going to care about the poor Liberals. I'm willing to bet there would be laughter involved.

    The optics are this: Conservatives limiting donations to politicians, Liberals want their rich friends to be able to donate more. That's what this issue boils down to, and no one cares.

    Bitch all you want, but Harper and Layton win this battle. The end.

    By Blogger Sean, at 1:06 AM  

  • I believe it is a common practice of all parties to receipt the entire amount of the convention fee (cause that's the only way people would possibly come ie. the Conservative convention was in the $700 range).

    From what I understand, political parties usually note that the 'convention fee' is actually a donation into the parties general fund, and that the convention is paid for in turn from the general funds. Makes sense, in a way, because tracing each dollar from donor through a general pool and making sure it goes to the convention would be quite a headache.

    As for this specific instance, Sean is of course right that the average Canadian will not care.

    But the unintended consequence coming out of all this is the possibility that this move by Harper/Layton will do a lot more to heal the rift still dividing the Liberal party then any of the candidates running for the party leadership.

    Cause heck. Liberals themselves disagree on stuff like Afghanistan, US relations and equalization. But they can _all_ recognize and agree that they're getting the royal screw job in this case.

    If I were Harper/Layton I'd think twice about this one. One would think that keeping the Liberals from coalescing around an issue (any issue) would be best.

    By Blogger Ivan, at 1:21 AM  

  • Isn't the real question here the fact that the Liberals have failed to be a grass roots party. They created the law back in 2004 and continued to function based on big donors. Although we heard continuously how Martin and the Liberal Party were of the Canadian people with Canadian values, it is clear that based on the last donation report from all 11 leadership hopefuls that they have only received donations from about 80 people in total – including the 11 year old twins. Where is the one member one vote? Where is the democracy of the grass roots? That's why Volpe was trying to get his corporate friends to find a way to give $50,000 through family members – unless you think 11 year olds wrote their own cheques.

    The Liberals talk big about representing the people but have made almost no steps to attract the people. The bigger question than the Accountability Act is why are there not 1000, 2000 or 5000 people giving money to the leadership?

    The Liberal Party has created their own problem by living off big donors and continues to function through big conventions with delegates. The last leadership vote in the Alliance Party – prior to the merger – I voted at my local library. (One member one vote just like a Canadian election – sound democratic to me – cost me $10 for my membership) So why exactly do people have to pay $995?

    The Liberal Party has made its bed…

    By Blogger GaryMc, at 1:55 AM  

  • Can't you transfer the convention fee to another Liberal or two to cover he contribution portion (say $700) to avoid the personal limit?.

    Tax deductions are: 75 percent of the first $200; 50% of anything between $200 and $500.

    A $350 donation would cost $100 so two donors would cover the cost. Assuming this is not prohibited by tax law.

    By Blogger Psychols, at 3:19 AM  

  • I have to admit that contrary to most conservative and even some liberals blogging here, that I do feel a tad worried about changing the rules mid-stride a leadership campaign.

    Mostly just because I think its a bit mean. But since we're not in Harper's mind, I don't think its fair to say he's trying to wreck havoc. He could feel that Liberal complaints concerning this are simply another ploy to call him a 'harpocrit'.

    Nevertheless, the fact that CG is complaining about it carries a lot of weight in my books. Cuz I respect him even if I disagree with him.

    By Blogger SouthernOntarioan, at 9:16 AM  

  • I do feel a tad worried about changing the rules mid-stride a leadership campaign.

    The Conservatives campaigned on Accountability reform. I know Liberals aren't accustomed to keeping their campaign promises but the Conservatives are following through on theirs. They should not have to wait to go forward on their campaign promises because it might interfere with the Liberal leadership race. That's just an added bonus. :)

    By Blogger What_The_Puck?, at 9:38 AM  

  • Any party that charges $995 to be at its convention can hardly be considered one that is open to all Canadians.

    By Blogger BR, at 10:14 AM  

  • I believe that the high cost is actually to cover the travel subsidy.

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 10:25 AM  

  • The Conservative party did not receipt any of its Convention fees to delegates - there was not donation included in the Convention costs.

    If the Liberal Party is building in a donation that is over and above the costs of running the Convention, then that is a donation and is receiptable.

    Before going any further on this train of thought, someone should speak with Elections Canada and find out their interpretation of the act.

    As I've said, the rule of thumb is that only the money collected above and beyond costs is a donation. At a fundraising dinner, if the ticket is $100, and the meal/venue/etc.. costs $70, then you receive a tax receipt for $30. Your contribution would only count for $30.

    By Blogger WillBlog, at 11:40 AM  

  • Charging of 995 for attending a convention is exactly why the Liberal party needs a renewal, and from the grassroots. You are restricting members who cannot pay that money (which is most of us) from participating. I already paid $16.95 to be a member of the party for the year, why should I have to fork over 1G to have the priviledge of electing my leader? That's not democracy.

    I hope the law passes. I hope this is the last convention leader selection the Liberals do. Something like the Tories, a one-member-one-vote with equal representation of ridings is the way to go.

    I want politicians to get as less money from a few as possible. I want campaigns run on a shoe-string budget, across the board. Already for the municipal elections, I heard on radio most mayors and councillors have upto 90% of campaign funding from builders, developers and contractors.

    By Blogger mezba, at 12:21 PM  

  • "making sure it goes to the convention would be quite a headache"

    Democracy. What a hassle. Guess they'll just have to distinguish between funds for the convention, and donations. Any travel subsidies ARE a donation.

    By Blogger anonymous, at 12:29 PM  

  • CGrit, I'm sure if it were the Liberals doing this to the Conservatives, you would be praising it as a clever tactical move. However, I write the same thing about this as I did on Cherniak's Blog (which is full of crap...but highly entertaining)

    Why is it offensive to some Liberals to pass retro-active legislation with regards to political donations, and yet not offensive to pass retro-active legislation towards firearms owners? You can't have it both ways and stay credible.

    You cannot "Un-donate" (ever tried to get money back from a Liberal?) your contribution, and you can't UN-buy a firearm.

    CG....if you are opposed to retro-active legislation because it is unfair to those it injures, then you must oppose it for all injuries of the same nature. To do otherwise simply shows hypocrisy.

    As has been said many times in the past...."You can't have it both way"

    Or..."You can't have your cake and eat it too"

    By Blogger James Halifax, at 1:03 PM  

  • James Halifax; What retroactive firearms legislation did the Liberals pass? The gun registry had something like a 5 year window for people to register their weapons.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:33 PM  

  • Sean and co: Oh yeah, it's great politics. Like I said, Tories are for accountability and the Liberals are against it. And the issue is far too complicated for the Liberals to make a compelling case (especially with the ridiculously high 995$ fee)

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:34 PM  

  • "The gun registry had something like a 5 year window for people to register their weapons."

    I suspect he is referring to the requirement to register weapons owned at (or prior to) the time the gun registry was enacted.

    By Blogger deaner, at 2:55 PM  

  • jason cherniak is right -

    montreal delegates will be subsidizing the whole thing by being the ones stuck with the $995 fee.

    its progressive - or is it regressive because the fee shrinks the farther away you are from the convention?

    Anyway - fiscal imbalance be damned, Quebec's subsidizing Ontario, for once.

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 8:56 PM  

  • CG asked:
    "James Halifax; What retroactive firearms legislation did the Liberals pass? The gun registry had something like a 5 year window for people to register their weapons. "

    C-68 Grit....what else?

    Deaner got it the first time, so I think you weren't reading what I wrote, or you are being deliberately obtuse.

    The Liberals act outraged that the Accountability act "punishes" them for something that was perfectly legal a few short months ago....but now turns them into criminals if they donate to the party of their choice, when we can all see that no criminal behaviour is intended.

    The same applies to people who own guns...some of which are quite rare or valuable, or of great sentimental value. The Liberal brought in a law that said if you don't obey the registry....you are a criminal.

    See the similarity yet Grit?

    If not.....you are the perfect Liberal. Only seeing fault when circumstances injure you.

    By Blogger James Halifax, at 1:30 AM  

  • Oh the whining....

    One of the essential parts of the renewal of the Liberal Party is learning how to raise money from hard-working play-by-the-rules taxpaying Canadians like all the other parties do.

    20 million adults in Canada time $1000 per adult. $20 billion in potential dollars out there each year. For a political party with the right message, it should be that difficult to raise whatever funds necessary.

    By Blogger godot10, at 10:16 AM  

  • The amount of the political donation is the amount you receive on the post-convention tax receipt, which the party is free to set at whatever level it chooses (see bcer in Toronto's comment, re: travel subsidies).

    This means that the federal Grits can deduct any legitmate convention costs (meals, hall rentals, security, etc...) from the $995.00, provided they are itemized on a per delegate basis in the post-convention report to Elections Canada. For example, when I was a delegate to the last federal PC leadership convention (Mackay/Orchard), the delegate fee was $595, but the tax receipt was only for $360.00. Individual delegates can further deduct convention related expenses (airfare/hotels) from their taxes (mit receipts) but these are not subject to donation limits as the money doesn't flow to the parties directly.

    Why hasn't this distinction been reported in the media? When was the last time anyone saw a reporter pay their fees at a political meeting? I doubt they even pay for their meals.

    BTW. Congrats on snagging David Orchard for your party. I'm sure he'll do for the Grits everything he did for the old PC party.

    By Blogger herringchoker, at 11:04 AM  

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