Prime Minister Cretien did a LOT of working re-working election financing laws to try to make it fairer for all parties... to get to a better discourse on pure issues, and not just money... Unfortunately, we haven't evolved the system enough to focus on "just the issues" - just yet.
I posted these comments on James Curran's blog previously, but thought they bear repeating...
Unfortunately, when you have tons of money, you can "buy" a lot of votes with a slick media campaign... And you don't have to be honest about it, if you're a Harper Conservative.
This election is quickly becoming a matter of economics... Unfortunately it's not the Canadian economy that is being properly discussed and debated, but the political party economics vis-a-vis WHO has the money to run ads for 2 years straight (I still want to know if that is even legal - thought political ads were only allowed during the writ - that's the way it SHOULD be, if it isn't). We did a horrible job of fundraising, and while efforts have picked up since Spring, it's too little, and Harpo probably knew that when he called the snap election...
Going forward, we need to get everyone more involved in the fundraising part of politics. Unfortunately the Reform system of $5 in a tin cup from every western farmer and oil baron at every rally and stump speech - like a church collection plate - has been able to handle the new campaign financing laws the best...
We have to update our own fund-raising system - to ensure this doesn't happen again. We are on the path - probably only needed a few more months.
Sad reality, but these days parties need a lot of money to run a winning campaign. If Canada TRULY wants a fair system, we need to:
1) set limits that are attainable by ALL parties - during a finite "election period". Would love to bring the Greens and Dippers more into the debate - and have an equal playing field on which to voice their opinions.
2) eliminate 3rd party ads. Period.
3) eliminate government ads thinly veiled as "psa's".
Making these changes will allow parties to stop worrying too much about fancy fund-raising dinners. It will lower the cost of admission to party functions - ensuring a broader swath of the population joins or simply attends... The changes will ensure that parties can display their talents for using the same amount of resources to achieve an end result. Like a real-world test, parties would have to show how "good" they are with money - how well they budget and plan - rather than just who has the most motivated or angry supporters.
Some MPs and candidates already have the fund-raising right: they run "spaggheti dinners", or "hot-dog and a burger" fund-raisers. Fun stuff that allows a LOT of people to participate. Lose the ridiculous $500/plate dinners and other "champaigne fund-raisers". We don't need to "schmooze" those people anymore - because corporate donations have been minimized. What we need to do is reach out to the ordinary voter. A huge barbeque with 1000 guests at $10/pop will raise $10000, with very low levels of organizing, or you can do something that you have to plan and organize for months - with very little more profit... (fancy dinners at fancy venues cost a lot more to run).
A cheaper fund-raiser has the added benefit of attracting youth, and the types of people who will actually work in your future campaigns. Try getting your typical $500/hr Bay St. "executive-type" to work a campaign without a "position-name" attached to it... and do it on a daily basis through-out a campaign. Better yet - try to get them to plant lawn signs... lol... In campaigns I have managed, we would actually MAKE UP POSITIONS to satisfy the bigger egos out there. Of course you will also rarely get volunteers from your corporate donors - unless they have something to gain (perhaps running in a future election, etc.). If people are motivated, and driven by an issue, they will work for you.
If a progressive party is elected to government, we NEED to ensure we do this one thing - to change (once again) the rules as they relate to election financing - even if it takes a coalition to do this... If we fail, the future will be bleak - run by conservative corporate America, drubbing a repetetive message into a "dumbed down" population - fed a constant diet of sensationalized tabloid news, reality-TV, sitcoms, sports, and the associated sponsor advertising for everything from drugs to guns to defense contractors...