Have you paid your debt to society, ambitious Liberals? Uh-oh

Over the Inkless transom comes this brown envelope from the Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec), in anticipation of this weekend’s big leadership-rules meeting. It sure is something else, this set of proposals (which, as proposals, have not been adapted yet, I should emphasize). You will be confounded and amazed.

First there is a cover letter, which is rather anodyne:

November 5th, 2008

To the Members of the National Executive
Liberal Party of Canada
81, Metcalfe Street, Suite 400
Ottawa (ON) K1P 6M8

Dear friends,

It is a pleasure to send you the attached conclusion of our working committee done by our Provincial Executive for our recommendations on the rules and regulations that must be adopted for the next Leadership.

Please be advised that this report was adopted unanimously by our Board of Director LPC(Q) at its meeting held October 27, 2008

Yours faithfully,

Robert Fragasso

Then there is the attached conclusion of the working committee. I have taken the liberty of marking the juicy bits in boldface, though I suspect you would have found them yourselves without too much trouble, for they are juicy:


The primary objective of this exercise is to come up with solutions allowing a high-quality democratic process for the leadership convention, keeping in mind all the various situations that we must face, namely: the legal framework, the Party’s internal government (LPC Constitution) and both its’ members and its own economic situation.

During our consultations and discussions we have kept in mind three (3) main lines:
1) the delegate election;
2) the Convention;
3) the spending limits for leadership candidates.

Within these lines, we must underline that the major concerns were the democratic process and the Party’s and its members’ current financial situation.

1) The delegate election

In our discussions, many avenues were explored. Voting by Internet, by telephone, by mail and finally the traditional general assembly held in every riding association.

It is important to note that the electoral process for the delegate election in the riding associations described in article 56 and following must be in accordance with the LPC’s Constitution. Certain deviations are allowed in particular circumstances and we believe that some of these might be applicable during the course of the next convention. Both the financial standing of the Party and of the Provincial and Territorial Associations (PTA) must be seriously considered. The financial burden of the election must be minimized as much as possible while taking into account the surplus workload demanded of our workforce and of the human resources of the PTA. The think tank spent time thinking of alternatives for electing delegates.

a) Internet voting
Internet voting is the easiest and least expensive of the electoral procedures. It does, however, present certain hurdles, mainly accessibility. Moreover, the infrastructure required to implement this electoral procedure requires a development and setup period that will be difficult to realize given the timelines involved.

b) Telephone voting
Another option is telephone voting. This electoral procedure has been used by various political parties; it was implemented by the Parti Québécois at its last leadership convention. In the case of the election of a leader where numerous possibilities for the choice of the delegates are high (twenty (20) delegates per candidate on top of variations and changes) and where the selection for the delegates changes from riding to riding, this electoral procedure would require expensive and complex IT setup costs.

c) Mail-in voting
Mail-in voting was the solution tested in Québec during the delegates selection for the previous leadership race. This electoral procedure is accessible, confidential and safe. Considering the compatibility of this electoral procedure with the Party’s infrastructures, we should use it in order to minimize costs. Nonetheless, this procedure is allowed by the Party’s Constitution under extraordinary circumstances; however, we believe that the current situation faced by the Party allows us to do so.

It is important to note that we will make use of this alternative electoral procedure in the following special cases:
1) remote regions;
2) ridings of immense territory; and
3) ridings with low membership.
Where the number of members is sufficient, the territory reasonable and where the remoteness is not an issue, we favour, like we did in 2006, the centralization of electoral assemblies for the selection of delegates in one place. In this regard, the National Executive would have the responsibility of mailing the ballots to the members of our three hundred and eight (308) riding associations targeted by this procedure and the Provincial and Territorial Associations (PTA) would be responsible for the counting and the tabulation of the votes. In regard to the holding of the general assemblies, these would be under the responsibility of the PTA with due respect to the applicable constitutional rules and regulations.

2) The Convention

Having evaluated the economic impact of holding the Convention in Vancouver, we concluded that another location would be preferable and that its format should be modified to limit its length, all the while maximizing its media impact. In addition, we understand that the Convention, as planed in Vancouver, would be for Orientation planning to which the election of a leader would be added. The financial implications of having these two components together make for a very expensive Convention.

Given the above, we therefore recommend that the matter of the leadership and the election of Party officials be the first priority and that afterward the Party hold an Orientation planning Convention.

Taking into consideration the difficult economic situation of our Party, the possibility of a recession and a quick election by the Conservatives, we must at all costs minimize the expenses and take into consideration the financial constraints imposed to our donors by the Canada Elections Act.

For the above-mentioned reasons, we favour the holding of the Convention closer to the critical mass of our pool of delegates that is Central Canada (Hamilton, Ottawa, Toronto and Québec). Furthermore, we recommend lowering the registration fees and lowering the allocation for transportation. Therefore, by lowering registration fees and by restricting the allocation for transportation, we would be minimizing the possibility of reaching the contributions ceiling to a political party and allow a majority of delegates to participate to the democratic process of electing a leader.

Without restricting the generality of the above and with the objective of providing you with realistic financial hypothesis, we put together different scenarios of various cities where the Convention might be held (see annex).

3) Spending limits for leadership candidates

Faced with this new reality, we must revise our approach in regard to the expenses that a candidate incurs during a leadership race. Recent experience has shown us that it is much too easy for leadership candidates to borrow important sums of money but that it is very difficult for them to reimburse the said monies when they are due. It is important to highlight that the reimbursement of these debts if often detrimental to the Party itself, the said reimbursement being made by donors to the coffers of the Liberal Party of Canada. We are thus confronted with a particular problem; in some cases people prefer helping a candidate pay back his debt rather than contribute directly to the Party.

For these reasons and others that are just as pertinent, we believe it is important to impose the following limits:

a) Spending limits

At the previous leadership convention, the spending limit was $2.8 million, which we believe is too high.

High spending limits favour the flow of contributions destined for the Party towards leadership candidates, we therefore believe that to limit expenses to $1.8 million would be reasonable.

We might add that $1.8 million dollars is what our current leader spent on his leadership campaign.

b) Maximum indebtedness limit per candidate

The maximum indebtedness limit per candidate must not exceed 15% of the total amount of money invested by this candidate in the course of a leadership campaign. The final evaluation of the indebtedness ratio will be done at the conclusion of the leadership race. Furthermore, no candidate is allowed to run in this leadership race if the said candidate shows any outstanding debt from the 2006 leadership race.

c) Imposed entrance fee per candidate

The registration fees are limited to $75,000. This sum can not in any case be obtained by borrowing from a financial institution or individuals.

Candidates interested in running must be able to build a minimum critical mass of supporters. This would avoid having to deal with marginal candidates that are more preoccupied with possible alliances than by their victory in the leadership race.

This contribution would be directly attributed to the payment of the fixed costs of the leadership convention.

d) Taxation of contributions received per leadership candidate

The Liberal Party of Canada must benefit from the fundraising capabilities of the leadership candidates.

Therefore, the imposition of a 15% tax on the amounts collected by each candidate appears reasonable to us.

Hoping that these suggestions might contribute to make our next Convention a political success at a realistic cost.

Robert Fragasso
Brigitte Legault
For the Board of Directors of the LPC(Q)


Now here’s the thing.

Party’s busted, can’t afford to meet in Vancouver, blah blah blah. Caps on borrowing, ban on any candidate still carrying debt from ’06….


Here’s the Liberal Party of Canada’s own best guess about who still carries a leadership debt. At the bottom of this page, there’s a space where you can donate money to former leadership candidates. (It’s helpfully labelled, “Former Leadership Candidate Donations.” The list includes Kennedy, Fry, Volpe, Dryden, Findlay, Bevilacqua, Brison, Dion, and MICHAEL FREAKING IGNATIEFF. And indeed on Ignatieff’s website, as of today, there is still a place where you can contribute to his leadership campaign (defined as the “2006 leadership race”).

The Globe said the other day in passing that Ignatieff has retired his leadership debt. But Elections Canada has received no new paperwork from him since May September, when he still had outstanding debt (no new paperwork is required before January, an EC official told me). But surely Elections Canada filings, rather than cheerful assurances, will be the standard for determining whether debt remains outstanding?

I’m sure this will all be cleared up before long.