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Four years later, $7,200 to go

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I got an email last week from a friend of Ken Waddell.

It seems the Neepawa Banner-owner and frequent political candidate still has some outstanding debts from his 2006 bid for the provincial Tory leadership and his friends are launching an appeal to help him pay off the remaining $7,200 deficit. (He had a $10,325 deficit at the end of his campaign but a recent appeal to the party has helped whittle it down thanks to donations from MLAs, staffers etc).

Initially I wondered why he wasn't able to pay off what seems like a somewhat paltry amount. Hugh McFadyen, the winner of the race, and Ron Schuler, who finished second, paid off deficits of $78,768 and $24,353 respectively, in less than 10 months.

Waddell told me today he hasn't actually tried very hard to pay it off which is the main reason he still owes most of it almost four years later.

Which then made me wonder what rules there are about deficits. Especially since six federal Liberal candidates from that party's 2006 leadership are in the news again because they haven't paid off their campaign deficits yet either. They are potentially facing sanctions under the Elections Act because of it.

But basically I found out today from Elections Manitoba, there are almost no rules at all governing campaign deficits.

Any candidate from a leadership contest has to report to Elections Manitoba annually the amount remaining of any deficit until it hits $250 or less. After that Elections Manitoba stops caring.

Since December 2006, a change to the provincial Elections Finances Act means if there are any outstanding loans to be repaid from a leadership contest, a candidate has 24 months to do so. But if the debts owing are not loans to be repaid, or if the contest was before December 2006, as is the case with Waddell, there is no deadline.

Waddell could take as long as he wants to pay it off. When the original version of this blog was first posted yesterday I may have left the impression the deficit could include unpaid bills but Waddell has assured us it does not. He covered the shortfall in the funds himself, so technically, he is raising money to pay himself back.

So actually in some ways it makes more sense that he hasn't done much yet to do so.

If Elections Manitoba doesn't actually penalize him for not paying it off, and he doesn't actually owe anyone else the money, I can see why the effort would not be there.

Federal leadership candidates however do have penalties to face if they don't pay off deficits and loans. Elections Canada will view any unpaid deficit or loan after a length of time as a single donation. If it exceeds $1,100 -- the limit on an individual donation -- it would consider it a violation of election finance law.

Six of the 11 federal Liberal candidates are now in that boat unless they can convince a judge to give them some more leeway to pay off their debts.

They are hampered by the $1,100 limit having tapped out most sources. But unlike in Manitoba they can at least offer a tax rebate for every donation. If you donate the maximum $1,100, you'll get more than half - $591.67 -- back on your tax return. In Manitoba, you can donate up to $3,000 but you get back bupkiss.

Only donations to political parties or candidates in a general or by-election are tax deductible in Manitoba.

So I sympathize with Waddell trying to raise the money to do this. It probably would have been easier four years ago when the race and his involvement were fresh in people's minds. He may not have won but he helped make the race more interesting and to me, anybody with the courage to put their name on a ballot, deserves kudos.

Perhaps if he pledged to give the $7,200 to relief efforts in Haiti once the money comes in (or any other equally good cause) it might help spur on the giving?

Just a thought.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.


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