December 5, 2019
WINNIPEG - Today, Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA St. Boniface Dougald Lamont introduced a bill that would require a two-thirds vote in the legislature to approve changes to the election financing act. Lamont said the goal of the bill is to keep the ruling party from rewriting election rules that serve to tip the scales in their favour.
Lamont said the rules around election financing should require broader support in the legislature to ensure the rules aren't being changed to best suit the governing party.
Manitoba Liberals argue the PCs proposed changes to elections financing are undemocratic and will shield political parties' campaign spending from scrutiny.
Under the PCs proposed legislation, the only part of the democratic process eligible for subsidy and generous tax breaks will be private donations. Last spring, Pallister announced he would scrap the rebate but keep a generous tax credit for donors, which is as high as 75%. He relented, cutting the rebate to 25% - only to promise to eliminate the rebates altogether after the election.
Liberals said the rebate helps parties compete financially since candidates and parties alike could finance their campaign through loans as well as donations. The rebate program also meant Elections Manitoba carefully audits every campaign and candidates' expenses. Without rebates, Elections Manitoba will no longer pay such close attention to election spending - especially illegal election overspending.
"It's not uncommon for political parties to change the rules to favour themselves and try to build a 'permanent majority' where elections become much harder to win for parties that don't have as many resources," said Lamont. "Most people in Manitoba don't have the money to donate at all and their needs shouldn't be ignored or silenced."
When the NDP were elected in 1999, they undercut opponents by eliminating corporate and union donations. However, the NDP fundraising apparatus through unions was intact. They only introduced some measure of public financing after 2008.
In 2016, the PCs eliminated the per-vote subsidy, which provided funding to political parties based on their popular support, and are now eliminating a campaign finance rebate.
"A critical part of genuine elections is that laws governing the financing of campaigns are the same for all parties and do not give one candidate or party an unequal advantage," said Lamont. "The electoral process must be fair and not skewed toward a party or candidate," said Lamont.