Elections Canada to ITQ: "That's a very good question."

So I was sort of musing idly about today’s (not all that surprising) announcement, and the ongoing In-and-Out saga, and it suddenly occured to me that I have absolutely no idea what limits, if any, are imposed on party spending during a by-election — specifically, spending on advertising. (I know, I know — how odd that my mind would wander, all by its lonesome, in that direction. )

What if you were, for example, a national party with more money than you know what to do with, and you had big plans to run a series of ads over the summer, starring  –oh, let’s say a talking oil splot.  In the absence of a writ, you can spend as much as you want — under the current law, there are no restrictions whatsoever.

But what happens if you wanted to run some of those ads in — oh, let’s say, Guelph — and then suddenly, the Prime Minister calls a byelection. For the next 36 days — or however long the campaign runs — there are strict advertising spending limits imposed on the candidate; usually around $20,000, give or take a few thousand, depending on the population. There are also limits on how much the party can spend to promote that candidate. How, then, would the cost of that summertime advertising campaign be tallied? Would it count against the candidate’s limit? The party limit? Would it be exempt entirely from the restrictions, since it is a national campaign, and not directly related to the byelection?

Anyway, after a quick scan of the current statute and a visit to the FAQ on the website, I still didn’t have an answer, so I did what any good journalist does and called up the good people at Elections Canada to find out what, if any, effect the byelections may have on Oily the Splot’s crosscountry anti-DIon ill-will tour, and was somewhat relieved to discover that this wasn’t one of those famously stupid questions that makes the media relations guy roll his eyes and think, ‘Has this chick ever even heard of Google?’ (Yes, you can totally hear an eyeball roll over the phone.) So now, we wait. I’ll post as soon as I hear back — and feel free to use the comment thread to guess what the answer will be.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: Answers! Well, an answer, at least – which, of course, just makes us think up more questions to ask, but that’s okay.