Monday, May 07, 2007

Room for cooperation

The CP reports on the NDP's call to modernize the Canada Elections Act to account for the new fixed-election-date system. And based on the issues now in play, it's not hard to see where there's room for cooperation to fix some of the current holes in our electoral regime:
The NDP wants comprehensive electoral reforms before the next federal vote, not the "piecemeal" approach it says is being taken by the Conservative government...

New Democrat MPs Paul Dewar and Pat Martin say the Tories appear fixated with partisan concerns and not with a comprehensive overhaul.

Now that Canada is committed to fixed election dates every four years, the New Democrats believe electoral cycles will be fundamentally altered.

All parties will begin gearing up well before the writ is dropped, when current rules for campaign spending kick in.

So the NDP wants rules on political spending between campaigns. That way, they say, no one party will be able to dominate political advertising "just by virtue of the size of their bank account."
None of the issues appear to be particularly new ones. But the timing may be right to allow for far more progress than the other parties were willing to work toward last year.

On the issue of loans, the NDP has been calling for action for some time already. Which means that even if the Libs want to try to defend the system that effectively funded their leadership race, there's every reason to think that some needed controls will be put in place. At the same time, though, the NDP may need to team up with the other opposition parties to ensure that commercial loans remain an option, such that the Cons' cash-on-hand advantage doesn't translate into a radical difference in campaign resources.

As for non-campaign spending, it shouldn't be a particularly difficult job to sell the need for such reforms to the other opposition parties. Not only is the idea an easy one to support on principle once the election date is set in stone, but the Libs' and Bloc's self-interest will clearly dictate that the Cons not be allowed to spend at will in the months leading up to an election campaign.

In sum, the types of electoral reforms currently under discussion should allow the NDP to broker a number of different agreements. And even if neither the Cons nor the Libs are willing to work toward the most important possible reform (a switch to a more fair voting system), the end result will hopefully be an electoral system which better emphasizes ideas over dollars.

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