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Former Cumberland Colchester Musquodoboit Valley MP Bill Casey is calling on his former political peers to ease some of the difficulties that prevent Canadians from running for federal office as independents.
Casey, who retired from federal politics in 2009, has written Pierre Poilievre, the minister of state for democratic reform, asking him to ease the process for independent candidates.
“One of the most unfair aspects of the Canada Elections Act is the distinct advantage that candidates representing a party have over independent candidates. There are two sets of rules for candidates and the Fair Elections Act should correct this unfair disparity,” Casey said in the letter that was also forwarded to Cumberlandnewsnow.com.
The veteran MP knows what being without party affiliation is all about. After being ejected from the Conservative caucus in 2007 for voting against the federal budget, the 68-year-old Brookdale resident sat as an independent MP and was re-elected as an independent in 2008.
Casey said a candidate representing a party can be nominated and campaign for months, or years, before an election is called while someone without party affiliation can only apply to Elections Canada to be a candidate after the election is called.
A party candidate is also free to raise funds and issue tax receipts at any time during four years between elections through the riding association. Casey said an independent candidate is not allowed to start raising money and issue tax receipts until after the election is called and only after he or she has been certified as an independent candidate by Elections Canada.
As well, Casey said, a party candidate can prepare for an election by purchasing signage and brochures well in advance of an election, but independents cannot incur any expenses or make purchase until after the election call and after Elections Canada certifies them as the candidate.
“A candidate representing a party can keep any unused campaign funds left over from an election by transferring the money from the campaign account back to their riding association. Those funds can then be used for the next election,” Casey said. “An independent candidate must surrender any unused campaign funds to the Receiver General of Canada and cannot reacquire those funds for the next election.”
He also suggested the new Fair Elections Act allows the parties to raise unlimited funds for elections up to five years before ballots are cast.
“Five years of fundraising versus 50 days for an independent, does that sound like a fair election to you?”
Because of all this, Casey said party candidates have a significant head start over independents and potential candidates are often discouraged from running because of the “unfair advantages provided to the party candidates.”