Five things to know about election spending

For starters, new rules will make it harder for candidates with little money to get loans



New spending rules for the upcoming election will make it harder for candidates with little money to get loans to help them spend as much as their opponents. That makes having a lot of money in the bank a necessity for any riding association heading into what will be an extended campaign with historically high spending limits.

Here are five key points to know about election spending this year:

1. Elections Canada sets the spending limit in each riding based on the number of voters in those ridings. Preliminary estimates provided by Elections Canada peg the average spending limit per riding at about $101,630 for a period of 37 days. Multiply that by 338 ridings, and at least three candidates per riding, and candidates will have the ability to spend at least $103 million. Go over that limit and the long arm of Elections Canada will come down on you.

2. Elections Canada also sets spending caps for national campaigns. This year, Elections Canada estimates that parties will be able to spend a maximum of $25.35 million over five weeks, but that won’t become official until after the official start of the campaign when the writ drops.

3. The longer the campaign goes, the more everyone is allowed to spend. The Fair Elections Act provides that for every day beyond the typical 37-day campaign, spending limits for national parties and their candidates will increase by one-thirty-seventh. For a party running a full slate of candidates, that means an extra $675,000 added to the spending limit for each additional day. EDAs are entitled to spend on average $101,000, with every extra day beyond 37 being worth an extra $2,700.

4. Candidates can borrow money from their party or riding association, but electoral district associations (EDA) typically turn over their money to their candidates during campaigns. Conversely, riding associations that are flush with cash can transfer as much as they like to the national party or to more impoverished riding associations.

5. Candidates can borrow money from individuals but only to a maximum of each individual’s $1,500 donation limit, or from a financial institution. If the bank requires a loan guarantee, a registered party or EDA may do so but, opposition parties and their riding association are unlikely to be able to backstop many candidates given their own money woes. Individuals may also guarantee bank loans but only up to the maximum of the each individual’s donation limit.

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