- The president of the federal Liberal Party in British Columbia
says Grit candidates will likely spend an average of at least $5-million
in the leadership campaign which unofficially started last week.
But Bill Cunningham, a staunch supporter of
Paul Martin (LaSalle--Émard, Que.), said in his personal
opinion, $8-million to $9-million is the appropriate spending limit
for Liberal Party leadership contenders.
In the last Liberal leadership campaign in 1990,
the spending limit according to the Liberal Party was $1.7-million,
while according to the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and
Party Financing report, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (Saint-Maurice,
Que.) spent $2.446-million and Mr. Martin spent $2.372-million.
Liberal Party of Canada records indicate that
$489,914 were excluded from Mr. Chrétien's account and $457,114
were excluded from Mr. Martin's account as "pre-election call
expenses." So, the final amount that Mr. Chrétien spent
in the 1990 leadership campaign was $1,671,768 and Mr. Martin's
final amount that he spent was $1,637,147.
Akaash Maharaj, National Policy Chair of the
Liberal Party, a member of the powerful 61-member national executive,
and a candidate for the party presidency, said in an interview with
The Hill Times that he's reluctant to suggest any Liberal leadership
spending figures. He said the matter has yet to be decided by the
Leadership Expenses Committee and we would like to hear from individual
leadership contenders about their opinion on this issue first.
Mr. Maharaj, however, said later that in his
opinion, $3-million should be the absolute lowest spending limit
and $9-million should be the highest spending limit.
"I am reluctant to offer any figure at
this time because as you know the national executive has not yet
debated this issue. What I will say is the one figure that has been
floated that I know is $9-million. My own feeling is that that figure
would be at the very upper limit that would be acceptable and $3-million
would be the lowest acceptable figure but this amount would be extraordinarily
low," said Mr. Maharaj.
Mr. Maharaj said he personally thinks that two
factors should be kept in mind while determining the spending limit
for the Liberal leadership contenders.
"I believe it must be high enough to ensure
that every candidate is able to run a vigorous campaign that engages
the entire country but I would not want to see the limit placed
so high that that gives candidates an advantage based on finances
as opposed to merit."
Mr. Maharaj also said this campaign will likely
cost more money because among other factors, the Liberals are now
in government and will be able to raise money too.
According to one Liberal insider who has worked
on different election and leadership campaigns in the past, leadership
campaigns cost "outrageously high amounts of money."
The Liberal, who did not want to be identified,
said some of the biggest-ticket costs are travel, staff salaries,
office space, telephone, fax and website maintenance.
Liberal MP Dennis Mills (Toronto--Danforth,
Ont.) and Heritage Minister Sheila Copps (Hamilton East, Ont.) who
are both expected to be contenders for the party leadership, criticized
the idea of $9-million in recent issues of The Hill Times. Both
described the amount as "obscene" and "out of line."
Mr. Mills said Liberal leadership contenders
don't need to spend more than $1.5-million and said in his opinion
"good ideas are more powerful than money."
Ms. Copps also said Liberals should spend about
what they spent in the last campaign in 1990.
Meanwhile, a list of campaign donations released
last spring revealed that Industry Minister Allan Rock (Etobicoke
Centre, Ont.) had raised $1.1 million by then, Deputy Prime Minister
and Minister of Finance John Manley (Ottawa South, Ont.) raised
$172,000 and Ms. Copps raised $54,000.
Mr. Martin, on the other hand, raised $750,000
in one night, raised another $110,000 in a two-month period, and
could already have $10-million.
One Martin strategist, Jamie Deacey, recently
told The Hill Times that candidates will have to spend more because
the leadership rules have been changed and are now based on proportional
Mr. Cunningham disagreed: "I don't
know if the rules in itself will make it more expensive but I think
what it does do is it makes sure that every riding in Canada is
equally important in terms of the organizational efforts. So, under
the new rules, a riding of 5,000 people in downtown Toronto will
be as important as the riding in northern Alberta that only has
150 members. So, I don't know if it means that it's going to be
more expensive but it certainly means that the resources will have
to be equally distributed across the country."