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Electoral reform could be a windfall for Green Party

For the first time every vote counts, for exactly $1.75



Electoral reform implemented under former prime minister Jean Chretien will have an impact in this election, but according to Professor Richard Johnson from the University of British Columbia Bill C-24 could have far more implications than many people realize.

One of Chretien’s final acts as prime minister was to push for electoral reform and his efforts have radically changed political financing and been hailed as a "gift" to democracy by many of the smaller parties, particular the Green Party.

Bill C-24 limits corporate and union donations to political parties to $1,000 and allows them only at the riding association level, not directly to federal parties.

The law also put a $5,000 limit on individual donations.

But the section of the bill that has rallied many of the minor parties is the legislation that puts a dollar figure on votes.

In this election any party that garners more than two per cent of the vote nationally, or five per cent of the vote in any electoral district, will receive $1.75 per vote.

The legislation has effectively reduced the amount of money the bigger parties have access to and increased the accessibility smaller parties have to election funding, and the Green Party – which is running candidates in all 308 federal ridings – is in the best position to take advantage of this.

In the 2000 election the Green Party won only 0.9 per cent of the vote nationally but polls are now showing the party is at five per cent.

Professor Johnson, who is head of political science at UBC, said the Green Party is in a prominent position not just because of the new legislation but because "we are heading for a hung parliament."

"(The legislation is) certainly very important because basically every vote that a party gets makes for an additional $1.75 from the treasury that will go into the party’s coffers for the next (election)," said Johnson.

"And there’s going to be one within a year because we’re going to have a hung parliament, so brace yourself for a continuous election cycle.

"But this means that there’s a powerful incentive for everybody to get as many candidates available as possible.

"Under other circumstances the Greens might have nominated candidates in a handful of ridings where they thought they saw a real Green vote potential.

"Now they will nominate candidates even if they can barely speak, even if they’re utterly catatonic."

Johnson said he didn’t think electoral financial reform was a decisive thing, but he said it could become so if this election produces a hung parliament.