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

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.

Filed under:

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

  1. Sorry.. what’s the problem here?
    It all looks pretty good to me.

  2. That’s because you don’t have an outstanding leadership debt from 2006…

  3. Okay, so Iggy can;t be pleased, but it seems to me to just make sense that the person whom the Liberal’s are going to elect reform fundraising within the party not carry a large load of personal debt himself.

  4. “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.”

    I’m sure I’m missing something here, but does this mean that only individuals with 75K of their own money can run for leader?

    Seems like a rule that would automatically exclude some folks.

  5. Sean, I think it means you must raise your money exclusively through out-and-out donations, rather than through loans. It seems to set a must-be-this-tall-to-ride bar for a candidate’s ability to raise money.

  6. These are all good things!
    No raising money from dead people and children this time?

  7. This is the kind of report that rekindles my curiousity to know how Stephen Harper financed his leadership race for the Alliance. Political leaders at this moment are not playing on a level field.

  8. That would help to prevent some of the also-rans from last time throwing their hats in.

    And embarrassing if true that Ignatieff has not yet managed to pay off his leadership debt. I’d say he looks like the strongest contender at the moment, but this could threaten that status.

  9. What would the cut-off date be to recognize retirement of the debt? Will the candidates be able to use this run’s donations to pay for the last one?

    I thought that there were fairly specific rules about the length of time it took a loan to become a donation. Tick tock?

    Anyway, I hope there’s some leeway here, else we could be faced with the possibility of…uhh…checks list…PM Denis Coderre!

    Thus the LPC would ensure a CPC majority, ensuring their donations dry-up, ensuring leadership debt, ensuring a CPC majority…etc. etc.

    Bonne chance!

  10. So… I guess its Rae!!

  11. Knowing that the Liberals must improve fundraising, and knowing that Ignatieff is obviously not great at it, how can he be considered the strongest contender?

  12. Gosh do you think the fix is in for good old Bobby Rae. Cheers.

  13. This doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. These are just recommendations so far, not adopted policy, correct?

    I can’t imagine Ignatieff will have trouble getting his supporters to pony up to erase his debt if that clause does turn out to be a show stopper for his candidacy. They’d be donating money to him anyways, right? Would just be a bit additional he has to raise to retire what is left of his debt..which doesn’t amount to much anyways, does it?

  14. I feel like I ate 15 slurpies and…am…suffering…extreme…brain freeze. Did Bob Rae just pull a coup on Iggy? Youch!

  15. I can’t believe you still have a transom !!

  16. Thanks, PW.

  17. So… this leaves Domenic LeBlanc and Bob Rae. Heaven help us all.

  18. It is encouraging that they are at least starting to consider spending less money. My experience with the Liberal Party is that many many members are in complete denial of the party’s financial trouble.

    The situation could not be worse for the Liberal party. They have election debts from 2006 and 2008, leadership debts. I heard that their debt is too high for them to borrow to finance another election. Therefore, the new leader will not have the money to fight an election or the capacity to borrow to finance one. But let’s pretend they did. They would have to win a majority because if it was a minority, the Conservatives could defeat it right away, and force yet another election that the Liberals certainly couldn’t afford.

    But that brings me to another Liberal problem. Accepting the fact that the party is in no position to win a majority. The Liberals were the “natural governing party” in the 60s, 70s and 90s but this is a new world. A new world in which a united right holds the west and the bloc holds Quebec. As I recall the 2006 leadership race involved a lot of patting on the back and talking about how great the liberal record is. This time round, the party needs to be a lot more critical of itself. It needs to figure out how to get progressive voters to rally around it in the west and in Quebec.

    But I must be dreaming, because a liberal leadership race run on the cheap that involved criticizing the party’s record in the west and quebec, wouldn’t be good for those party egos.

    And one last thing, surely someone better than Susan Smith could be sent to do television interviews.

    For the record, I’m a liberal party member who donated considerably last year.

  19. Kady you should take a large slice of hot cherry pie topped with pralines and cream out of petty cash although I can’t think when you would have time to eat it .

    Are you saying bloc II the second coming of bouchard finally is coming out f the closet or merely following Dion’s directive to riding assoc. to get their thoughts together ?

  20. If Iggy still owes dollars then he should be held back. Rule makes sense to me. But more importantly, how out of the blue was it to Iggy and his crew? Did they get bushwhacked by this?

    There should be a penalty for racking up the debt and not paying it off. Good for Rae if he engineered this. So iggy either pays off his debt now, and drains his warchest or doesnt run.

  21. Does anybody actually take sourpuss Brigitte Legault and sidekick Fragasso seriously anymore?
    They might as well have signed the letter “Love, Michael Ignatieff”.
    One more vote for Bob Rae!

  22. It really doesn’t matter what new rules they come up with. The math is simple on this one. Holding a leadership contest so soon after the last one, with an election in between is going to wipe the party out. And if they somehow manage to make it through without filing for bankruptcy, the soon-to-follow federal election will finish them off.

    This is what you get for sabotaging your own existing leader.

  23. Wow. I’ll write a cheque to Michael I. right now if he’s really still in the hole.

  24. Why do established political parties keep scrambling to make up rules as they go along? These dudes & dudettes have been around a while; you’d think they’d have leadership renewal rules set in stone. Cooking up new special exemptions and/or roadblocks in order to help or hinder specific individuals, as a “new rule” that just ambushed everyone, smacks of banana republicanism.

  25. boudica….you mean Chretien?

    Objectively, the problem lay in the Liberals not understanding the environment they were in and choosing a leader who had no idea about party machinery…..he was an ideologue, green green green…read some of Well’s columsn from 2007 to see that….and his team was fixated on election, which are effectively free to them due to subsidy…..

    I think Dion is either fighting the last war…who cares how many times Dion backs down now, he wont be leader (or will he?) or Dion is counting on there not being an election and getting a GG win because it is so soon after the election.

    Ms Jean is completed her term Sept 27 2010. Which would be two years after the recent election anyway. Only a government defeat in the next 9 months presents Dion with his opportunity anyway. Mind you, given that the government won more seats than before last time and that Dion as announced he is leaving it would put the GG in a difficult situation, unless Dion said he would leave when a new Liberal leader was elected (bizarre) (and imagine the uproar!). We are in twilight zone territory in this situation…

    You can count on the Bloc to engage in maximum mischief so what would the NDP do? For a few cabinet seats they would likely go along…..the question is would the Canadian people? And what would the right wing of the Liberal Party do? Would 10 Blue Liberals bolt….are there 10 in caucus?

    Session runs till Christmas, so I cant believe they would do it then, then they come back for Feb and a budget in or around March April…..then Parliament is done in probably May, Libs elect their new leader and no Parliament till Septemeber again.

    Of course there isnt a lot of time anyway. Many games wil be played, is Dion bluffing or not? He has nothing to lose and everythign to gain, do you think he cares if splits the Liberal party apart? I don’t

  26. Loraine Lamontagne writes: This is the kind of report that rekindles my curiousity to know how Stephen Harper financed his leadership race for the Alliance. Political leaders at this moment are not playing on a level field.

    This is a Liberal party of Canada (Quebec) proposal.

    This has nothing to do with Stephen Harper or the Alliance or any other thing that can be implied by some fear-mongering propaganda.
    In case you are actually interested in finding out, do some research instead of throwing out accusations

  27. From La Presse, August 19:

    “Dion est en bonne voie de rembourser la totalité de cette dette d’ici quelques semaines et pourrait même y arriver dès septembre.”


    I’ve asked in the past if the Liberals agreed to absorb Dion’s leadership debt in return for him stepping down as leader. The linked article I provide above would lead me to think no, since it wouldn’t be necessary. His debt would be paid off.

    But now, with the discussions above, I’m inclined to believe that Dion hasn’t yet retired his leadership debt. His name still appears on Paul’s link to the Liberal debt repayment website, and my question above (LPC absorbing his debt) might still be valid.

  28. The math is simple on this one. Holding a leadership contest so soon after the last one, with an election in between is going to wipe the party out. And if they somehow manage to make it through without filing for bankruptcy, the soon-to-follow federal election will finish them off.


    We have a winner.

    This is what you get for sabotaging your own existing leader.

    Yes, ma’am.


    The supporters of Stephen Harper thank the Liberals who thought that canning Stephane Dion was a good idea for their services to Canadian conservatism.


    (Oh, don’t worry. The Liberals will win again — possibly in 2012 or 2016 — and the worm will decisively turn.)

  29. If anyone is interested, here are the fundraising results from 2006:

    IGNATIEFF – $900,614 – 1628 – $553 – 1309 – $688
    RAE – $843,861 – 638 – $1,323 – 881 – $958
    KENNEDY – $369,038 – 458 – $806 – 751 – $491
    DION – $236,237 – 661 – $357 – 694 – $340
    VOLPE – $210,235 – 194 – $1,084 – 211 – $996
    DRYDEN – $170,373 – 403 – $423 – 187 – $911
    BRISON – $258,622 – 434 – $596 – 153 – $1,690
    HALL FINDLAY – $107,086 – 289 – $371 – 38 – $2,818

    (Note: this does not include borrowed funds. This is actual donations. Bob borrowed way more than anyone and had in the end something nearing $2M in total.)

    A few interesting notes: Dion got the most bang for his buck in terms of delegates per amounts raised. Iggy not only raised the most but had way more donors than anyone else. Dion had the lowest average donor amount but did not raise much money from them, Iggy was not far behind, and this – many supporters donating whatever they can – is the model that needs to work for the leader and for the party. It will be a good thing if candidates can’t borrow their way into the leadership; levels the playing field a bit and leaves the party healthier afterwards.

  30. “This has nothing to do with Stephen Harper or the Alliance or any other thing that can be implied by some fear-mongering propaganda.”

    Yeah, Lorraine. Don’t you know, accountability is for Liberals, not Conservatives.

    We just have to accept the fact that Stephen “Mr. Accountability” Harper will never be transparent and accountable for his leadership race the way he is forcing Liberals to be and he’ll never tell us who his big leadership donors were or whether they are also lobbyists or in what industries they work. Nor will Mr. Accountability ever tell us who suddenly retired Peter McKay’s $400,000 debt.

  31. Nor will Mr. Accountability ever tell us who suddenly retired Peter McKay’s $400,000 debt.

    I demand an immediate witchhunt!

  32. “This has nothing to do with Stephen Harper or the Alliance or any other thing that can be implied by some fear-mongering propaganda.”

    By GREG WESTON Friday, 7 November, 2008 A senior government official says Stephen Harper’s administration will move quickly to bar political candidates and parties from accepting loans as a way to dodge electoral financing laws.
    June 3, 2008 Scores of Conservative candidates missed campaign debt deadline By Joan Bryden , THE CANADIAN PRESS (4month deadline not 18 month)

    Politics is a full contact sport says cons . Thats fine except when played behind closed doors and then sending out spokespersons .

  33. So, we in the west can afford to travel to join this “critical mass” of delegates. Last I checked the cost of travel was the same going east as coming out west. Merde de merde.

  34. To Jay Currie (writer of the last comment, “Not the Toronto Party…):

    I clicked your link, and notice that you attribute the content of this blog entry to Paul Wells. It’s an internal Liberal document, not Wells’ ideas. He did bold some sentences for emphasis.

    Suggest you correct.

  35. And now I realize I misread your blog Jay. If I could delete the above comment, I would – sorry.

  36. Why do some posters get red colours . Does that signify a republican on a temporary work visa ?

  37. It means they put a url in the ‘website’ field when they posted.

  38. Iggy is the reincarnation of 2003 Martin…


    “Paul Martin spent the entire race as the unquestionable front runner, as his supporters had secured a lock on the party executives of the federal and most provincial sections of the party. They had made rules such as those regarding the sale of party memberships so onerous as to give Martin an unsurmountable advantage. Because of this, many potential candidates did not enter the race or dropped out”

    “Martin easily captured the leadership with 93.8% of the delegates, however the party would be plagued by significant infighting afterwards”

  39. REfresh my memory again. Who did Fragasso support?


    Iggy wants an early out in central Canada. End of story.

    Rae wants a $1 million limit, a Vancouver convention in May and a $50k entry fee so that this is an inclusive race. Rae and Bennett are the only ones to pay off their debt from last time.

    This Fragasso guy is an ass and is part of party’s overall problems.

  40. The two big egos are determined not to let the moribund Liberal Party die with dignity. So receivership it will be.

  41. Wow – there’s a lot here to chew on, but let’s start with the $75k.

    It is illegal to contribute more than the limit to your own campaign, so you can’t fund the $75k yourself.
    You can’t issue receipts for donations until you are technically a candidate.
    So how on earth would you get the $75k in the first place without borrowing it?

    And I love this part:

    “… 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…”

    Translated – Ottawa, you pay for everything we provinces need and then we’ll maintain oversight of who we choose to send to the convention.

  42. Who paid off Rae’s huge debt so fast?

  43. Rae and his contributors paid it off so fast Sandi. That’s who. The man commands an audience and never has a problem selling out a function.

    What exactly are you implying or alleging?

  44. Rae and his contributors

    You know you gotta listen when Power Corp is alive and kicking.

  45. James , care to elaborate ? As in the functions he sold out , along with dollar amounts ?