We have an answer!

(For background, click here.)

According to Elections Canada, although there are no restrictions on how much a party can spend outside the writ period, if a national advertising campaign takes place at the same time as a byelection and is broadcast into the riding, a prorated portion of the overall cost is counted against the party’s limit, which is calculated based on a formula of $0.70 per elector.

For the three Quebec by-elections in 2007, that worked out to $171,996.88, which, by the way, can be spent entirely in one riding, should a party decide to do so. The Liberal Party, for instance, spent less than half the limit — $78,832.03 — all but a few thousand of dollars of which went into Outremont. The Conservatives, meanwhile, nearly hit the limit, spending $158,147 – which was split approximately 60/40 between Roberval–Lac-Saint-Jean — which they won — and Saint-Hyacinthe–Bagot,  where the party made a much better showing than expected. Only $367.96 went to Outremont for “miscellaneous expenses.”

Suddenly, the strategy of storing up by-elections so you have a bigger pot to divvy up between ridings starts to make a lot more sense, especially if your party isn’t planning to contesting all three races with equal fervour.

We don’t yet know what the total spending allowance will be for the September by-elections – Elections Canada will issue a releases with the new limits sometime over the next few weeks – but my guess is that it will be closer to $200,000, since these are more populated ridings.

Later today, I’m hoping to put up a post comparing advertising expenses from the Quebec by-election campaigns – both by the parties and the candidates. In the meantime, however, the eternally vigilant election financing elves at, incidentally, have put together a lovely set of colour-coded lists, charts and and graphs using the latest available data from Elections Canada.

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