Get "Dark Money" out of PEI Politics

Thought that Big Money was banished from PEI politics in 2018 with the ban on corporate, union and off-Island political contributions, and the limits placed individual donations? So did we.

However, after the last election, it became clear that there are some major loopholes in the laws governing political party finances in PEI.

Unlike other provinces, PEI does not regulate loans taken out by political parties at all. We are also the only province in Canada that doesn’t require political parties to submit audited annual financial statements to Elections PEI, to ensure that rules are being followed and to be transparent with Islanders about where we get our money.

This is not just a hypothetical issue: 

  • In 2019, the PC and Liberal parties reported to their members that they had taken out loans of about $300,000 each during the election - a total of $615,000 in loans, and neither Elections PEI nor the public knows who the creditors or guarantors are.
  • Loans accounted for 73% of all PC and 35% of all Liberal election spending in 2019.
  • To put this in perspective, the amounts that each of those parties borrowed was nearly twice as much as the total spending of the Green Party and all of our 27 candidates in that same election.
  • It’s also more than 2-3 times more than those parties raised from donations in 2020. 

Why is this an issue?

This kind of unregulated, non-transparent use of massive loans to fuel expensive election campaigns is deeply problematic for a few reasons:

  1. We do not know - and political parties are not required to reveal - who they owe money to, who is guaranteeing their loans, or the terms on which the loans were made. This could give certain individuals or even corporations tremendous undue influence over their debtor political parties - without the public being aware of that influence. It completely defeats the purpose of the 2018 political finance reforms if corporations and individuals can get around the rules by making unregulated loans and loan guarantees instead.


  2. This debt is also driving - and driven by - unsustainable and unnecessary levels of election spending. PEI is grossly out of step with the rest of Canada when it comes to per-voter spending. Our current spending limit for political parties per voter is $9.82, which allows spending in excess of $1 million. This is more than double the next highest limit in all of Canada.  Unregulated borrowing allows parties to spend well above the level that their support among Islanders would justify. This distorts the democratic process.

What can we do about it?

Becoming aware of these issues has led Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker to draft a bill, An Act to Amend the Elections Expenses Act, which seeks changes to the laws to:

  • improve how political parties raise money;
  • make political financing more transparent to Islanders, and;
  • limit the influence of big money on elections.

Peter is planning on tabling this legislation during the Fall 2021 sitting. It is critical that we address the significant gaps in political finance well before the next election.

 

We're not expecting it to be easy to change the rules, because it would change the way the other parties have operated for many years. But we're hopeful that a majority of MLAs will agree that, like citizens of other provinces, Islanders deserve a transparent and fair democratic process, free from the distorting influence of Big Money.

You can help by adding your name to our #EndDarkMoney campaign today! Just add your name below, and you will be prompted to share this campaign via your social networks. By doing so, you will help shine a light on "dark money" and bring it out of the shadows.

GOAL: 99 signatures

Will you add your name?