Financing of Québec Political Parties - The Think Tank on the Financing of Political Parties Proposes the Reinforcement of Rules on Soliciting Contributions and Election Expenses in Québec



    QUEBEC CITY, Nov. 1 /CNW Telbec/ - In a report published today, the Think
Tank created on the initiative of the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec to
review political financing has proposed various measures aimed at reinforcing
the system for authorizing and financing parties, Members and independent
candidates. Greater accountability by the various actors, broader powers for
the Chief Electoral Officer, the clarification of certain rules and the
addition of new ones, greater transparency, as well as better information of
the various stakeholders in an election are some of the strategies proposed to
make financing rules more effective.
    The Think Tank, headed by the Chief Electoral Officer and made up of
representatives of the three political parties present at the National
Assembly, was launched by the Advisory Committee in the wake of the
revelations made during the Gomery enquiry that questioned the respect of
financing rules contained in the Québec Election Act. Me Jean Moisan's
investigation report that dealt with these revelations was provided to the
Think Tank to serve as a reference in its work. "The Chief Electoral Officer
and the party representatives reviewed the entire Act, explained the Chief
Electoral Officer, Me Marcel Blanchet, and this was necessary considering that
our rules on soliciting contributions and controlling election expenses are
30 years old this year, and that it is increasingly difficult to counter
certain illegal practices such as the reimbursement of contributions by non
electors."

    More Responsible Actors

    The Think Tank believes that more responsible actors on the electoral
scene will be more respectful of the rules. As a result, he proposes that
legal entities should commit publicly in their annual reports or through
corporate guidelines, to respect the rules governing political financing. A
new violation would also be created for any legal entity that tolerates on its
premises any illegal advertising that constitutes an election expense or that
influences any of its employees to incur illegal expenses during an election
period. Another means of making actors on the electoral scene more
accountable, according to the Think Tank, is to increase the fines for various
offences stipulated under the Act. A party would also become responsible for
an illegal act committed by any of its officers, delegates or official agents
or representatives. Furthermore, any political party that does not present
candidates will be required to obtain an authorization as a private intervenor
and thus participate in the election campaign by making known its opinion on
topics of public interest.

    Greater Transparency

    Transparency, that is, an open window on the administration of "election
funds," is definitely the most important basic rule regarding political
financing. The Think Tank believes that it is important to improve the
accountability envisaged in the current Act through greater clarity, accuracy
and consistency. Thus, it is necessary to standardize the presentation of
information contained in the financial reports of the various political
parties by requiring political parties to use the same accounting conventions.
Financial information concerning party organizations (for example, those in
electoral divisions), could also be presented in a much clearer manner. The
Think Tank also recommends that the Chief Electoral Officer should intensify
and systematize all its activities regarding the financial auditing of
political parties and their compliance with the Act. Also to ensure
transparency, a directive from the Chief Electoral Officer would require paid
election officers to present an invoice in due form for services rendered, to
the party's official agent. Financing rules could also be extended to
leadership races of political parties, which would make it possible to know
particularly who contributes to the campaign of candidates and what expenses
are incurred.

    New Powers for the Chief Electoral Officer

    As the primary person responsible for administering the Election Act and
monitoring the application of financing rules, the Chief Electoral Officer
will be required to exercise new powers that would improve his effectiveness.
Hence, the Chief Electoral Officer will manage the issuing of "democracy
recognition credits," that will replace the current tax credits administered
by the ministère du Revenu and that are given to electors who make political
contributions. By having complete control over the administration of
contributions, the Chief Electoral Officer could have a direct and continuous
communication channel with all actors concerned and thus be able to better
monitor how contributions are made.

    More Information to Various Actors

    The Think Tank realizes that after a presence of 30 years on the Québec
political landscape, the principles, objectives and rules governing the Québec
political financing system are not well known. It thus proposes that the Chief
Electoral Officer and the political parties should target certain networks of
election actors, especially donors, the business community, municipalities and
school boards to remind them about the importance of respecting the rules
governing political contributions.

    The Think Tank's report was received by the Advisory Committee made up,
pursuant to the Election Act, of the Chief Electoral Officer and
representatives of the three parties represented at the National Assembly.
Certain recommendations endorsed by the committee may end up leading to
modifications of the Act, while others will end up in committees or task
forces that will refine them and see how they can be applied in a concrete
manner.
    The rapport of the Think Tank on the financing of political parties is
accessible on the site Web of the Chief Electoral Officer at
www.electionsquebec.qc.ca
    -%SU: CPN
    -%RE: 1




For further information:

For further information: Denis Dion, Information Officer, (418)
644-3320, 1 888 870-3320, ddion@dgeq.qc.ca

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Directeur général des élections

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