It costs $25,000 to be considered a candidate to be premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador on Monday announced the rules of the leadership race to replace Premier Dwight Ball.
The race will include a $25,000 entry fee, to be paid in installments, with the first $15,000 payment due on March 6. The campaign to become premier of the province will be held for 75 days. The 2013 race was held over five months.
Liberal party committee member John Samms says the high cost in part demonstrates the skill of prospective politicians.
"...if you’re not able to raise that sort of money in a month, then you’re not going to be able to raise the sort of money the party needs to be successful in an election campaign.” — John Samms
“It’s just a simple fact that elections cost money. Fundraising is an element of being a successful politician in this province, with the rules the way they are,” said Samms.
“The reality is a (provincial) election is going to cost plus a million dollars — you’re going to have to be able to have the capacity to fundraise to do that. $15,000 to get them in the door, then $5,000, then another $5,000… if you’re not able to raise that sort of money in a month, then you’re not going to be able to raise the sort of money the party needs to be successful in an election campaign.”
There are no provisions in the 2020 rules to disclose the names and amount of money donated by individual donors. There is also no cap on spending or the amount of money that can be donated to candidates vying for the top job in the province.
Liberal party president John Allan says the party has no way to enforce spending caps in their leadership election.
“Spending limits, the consideration that we gave around that to implement a cap, our current laws don’t provide the parameters to enforce and monitor the caps during a leadership election.
“As a modern and progressive party, we welcome the recommendations that are going to come forth from the all-party committee on democratic reform, which was put together last year.”
Calls for spending caps on Liberal leadership races date back to 2013. Currently, each party sets its own rules for leadership contests, as leadership races are not handled by Election Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We would ask that the candidates would consider at the end of their campaign when they get their audits done that they be open and make that available,” said Allan.
Independent MHA Paul Lane says the leadership rules are “a clear example of what is wrong with our political system.”
“By continuing down the road of ridiculous campaign spending limits, we continue to restrict the leadership pool to the independently wealthy and/or to those connected to and/or beholden to those with deep pockets,” Lane stated in a news release.
“There is much mistrust in the public as it relates to government and the real and/or perceived influence that big corporations and/or the elite within our province hold. This upcoming leadership race only adds to this narrative.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie says the lack of transparency is a problem.
“The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador has put the premiership of the province up for auction. There are no limits on the amount of money that someone can spend. There are no limits on where the money can come from. It could come from out of the province,” said Crosbie.
“There’s no reporting requirement as to who might give the money. So, we’ll never know whether favours were purchased and granted. There’s no disclosure of the identity of people or entities that are giving the money.”
A list of donors was released after the 2018 Tory leadership convention, with results posted on Crosbie’s website weeks afterward. The Tories also had a price to participate in the leadership race — $10,000.
While Crosbie was calling on the Liberals for transparency, he offered no details on talks that could install him as premier of the province. Asked for details about coalition talks led by his party, Crosbie played coy.
“I can’t tell you, David, anything about that. It’s just not something you can talk about while the talks are in progress,” he said.
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you. Then, I’d have to kill the entire press corps. Then, we wouldn’t have a press corps, would we?”
The Liberal leadership convention will take place May 8-9 at the St. John’s Convention Centre.
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