OTTAWA - (Web posted April 16, 2002 @ 4:50
p.m.) - Ralph Goodale, the minister responsible for Canada's electoral process,
said the Liberal government has an appetite for transparency with respect to the
financing of political leadership campaigns, but he would not reveal how that
hunger could be satisfied on Tuesday.
appetite may also be allowed to fester, since the Globe
and Mail reported that Prime Minister Jean Chretien wants to keep his job
until at least April 2003.
The issue of transparency in leadership
campaign has been brewing for months.
Canada's Chief Electoral Officer Jean Pierre
Kingsley first shone light on the issue late last year when he suggested Liberal
leadership hopefuls should publicly disclose the names of their financial
"Canadians have a right to know who is
behind leadership bids...Not knowing breeds cynicism," Kingsley said.
A blunder by one of Finance Minister Paul
Martin's campaign organizers recently refocused the public's, and the
Opposition's, attention on the issue when a donation to his unofficial Liberal
leadership campaign was sent to the party's national headquarters.
It turned out the money was collected for
the minister by Calgary lawyer Jim Palmer who was also working for the
Department of Finance.
Palmer subsequently resigned from both jobs,
and the $25,000 donation he obtained from an Alberta energy company was
Now the Prime Minister is considering a
series of guidelines proposed by Ottawa's Ethics Commissioner Howard Wilson on
how to regulate the conduct of ministers who want to become party leader.
"There's an appetite here for
transparency for a solution that is satisfactory in the public interest the government
shares that appetite," said Goodale, the Government House Leader.
"The government is wrestling with ways
that to achieve that transparency."
they try to achieve that policy objective there are a handful of political
observers who hope the recommendations made by the Ethics Counsellor and the
Chief Electoral Officer will help promote greater openness in political
Aaron Freeman, of the Ottawa-based political
advocacy group Democracy Watch, said new policies are needed to promote disclosure
rules in political leadership campaigns that bear the most public scrutiny.
"We need a rule that applies to
leadership races," said Freeman. "It's probably the most significant
loophole in the Elections Act."
Ian Greene, a professor of political science
at York University in Toronto, added more openness in leadership campaign
financing could lead to a restoration of public trust in the political process.
"I really think the image of
politicians needs to be raised so we can persuade better people to run for
office, but the only way we can do that is to have the highest standards,"
"I think the campaign contributions
ought to be regulated by the federal election financing act...there should be
limits to donations and I think everything should be publicly disclosed a month
after the donations are made."