In Québec, political financing and the control of election expenses are subject to principles of fairness and transparency.
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Excerpt from a speech given in August 2000 (in French) by Francine Barry, assistant of the Chief Electoral Officer, at the conference of the International Political Science Association (IPSA):
Foundations of the system
Québec’s Act reserves solely for electors the right to make, out of their own property, contributions to political parties and candidates up to a maximum amount established by the Act. The setting of this amount at a modest level and the prohibition imposed on legal persons (corporations, unions, interest groups) from making contributions to political entities have helped to prevent the exertion of undue pressure on elected members and on the government based on the financing from which they or their party might have benefited.
The Election Act considers that contributions are not only cash donations but also services rendered and goods provided free of charge for political purposes. Moreover, political parties can obtain financing by means of activities, provided that the entrance fee to such activities does not exceed $60 per day. Beyond that limit, the amounts collected are considered contributions. Electors are allowed to make up to $3,000 in contributions per year to each party, including its authorities and to each independent candidate. The effect of this measure is to promote modest yet diversified contributions.
Fairness is one of the basic principles that give an electoral system a truly democratic character. This fairness is manifested in various aspects of the legislation or electoral administration. Observers of electoral systems generally recognize that it is essential that the voting method and the electoral map ensure a fair representation of the political trends present in the electorate. In addition, these same experts place importance on a neutral and impartial administration that applies the electoral legislation fairly by treating all stakeholders equally and with the same regard, whatever their political allegiance.
As for the financing of political parties and candidates, fairness consists of minimizing the financial differences between participants by giving each one the means to make their voice heard and by imposing strict limits to preserve a certain balance in the chances of being elected.
Québec’s political party financing system is also characterized by transparency in that parties, candidates and the various local authorities must give an account of their activities, by filing reports and returns, which the Directeur général des élections du Québec then discloses. These reports and returns are public in nature. Any person may examine and make a copy of them. The Directeur général des élections du Québec ensures access to this information, notably by publishing on an annual basis a report containing the financial statements of the parties, a summary of the financial reports of the parties, the list of contributors having contributed over $200 as well as various statistics on the financial position of the parties.
Financing supported by the State
By introducing new rules to ensure the grass-roots financing of political parties, the government was aware that the existing parties, whose financing came in large part from businesses, could suffer a major financial loss. Indeed, grass-roots financing, however great it may be, would not be enough to meet all of the financial needs of political parties, notably to allow them to support election campaigns, which increasingly rely on the electronic media. Moreover, the vitality of political parties is an essential component of the vitality of democracy. The government of that period therefore decided to increase its financial support for public parties and to implement tax incentive measures to promote the contributions of electors. This support takes several forms: annual allowance, reimbursement of the cost of auditing financial statements, partial reimbursement of election expenses and tax credits for the contributions made by electors.