Canada's former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Credits: FILE PHOTO
Jean-Pierre Kingsley was responding to reports that in the past 20 years, Elections Canada hasn't prosecuted any candidates for failing to pay back campaign debts with a prescribed period of time.
Kingsley, who served as chief electoral officer between 1990 and 2007, said Wednesday that candidates - especially those running for fringe parties or as independents - deserve a little leniency because they're making a "statement for democracy."
"If those guys, those gals get into a little bit of trouble, we have to be careful about that," he said, adding it was for that reason the Canada Elections Act gave the independent elections oversight body a range of options in handling these cases, from sending letters outlining the rules to jail time.
In filings submitted 18 months after each election - the deadline for repayment - candidates from 2004 owed a collective total of $1,303,964, from 2006 owed $793,702, and from 2008 owed $802,426.
The outstanding amounts ranged from a few dollars to more than twenty-thousand dollars. Indebted candidates were scattered across the country and across party lines and included independents and fringe party candidates.
In his report to Parliament after the 2008 federal election, current chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand ask MPs to review the rules governing unpaid claims and make them simpler for candidates, calling the current system "burdensome, complex and very ineffective."
"Payment of these claims can extend over months, if not years in some cases. When that happens, there is a risk that the transparency and integrity of the political financing regime will be undermined," he said at the time.