Political campaign debts

Pay it back yourself

Seems like Kevin O’Leary, the self-proclaimed “Mr. Wonderful,” can’t pay his debts. He’s back, throwing a fancy fundraiser to pay back his campaign expenses.

O’Leary, who ran in – then dropped out of – the Conservative leadership race last year, reportedly has more than $500,000 in debt from his failed bid. He said he would pay it off, but a pesky Elections Canada rule prevents any one candidate from paying more than $25,000 to their campaign.

I understand the reasoning behind this rule. It allows a somewhat level playing field in the world of politics. However, the race is over. He lost – no, he quit. Why should the Canadian public pay his debts when he can do it himself?

Now, the friends he’s inviting to this fundraiser at Casa Loma in Toronto can likely afford to pitch in. But it’s the principle.

Should a dropout have to ask the public to donate to his already-failed campaign? He should be able to pay off his debt with his funds.

As of 2017, O’Leary is estimated to have a net worth of about $400 million. And if for some reason he did not have the funds to pay off the debt, he should still be accountable for paying it off (like a regular Canadian) or face the consequences of a $2,000 fine and/or jail time.

For the curious, O’Leary spent over $1.9 million (raising $1.4 million) during his 99-day campaign. By comparison, local MP Michael Chong spent just over $845,000 and raised just under $860,000 during his year-long leadership bid.

– Olivia


Hold them accountable

Kevin O’Leary isn’t happy with Elections Canada.

Last year O’Leary launched a Conservative Party leadership bid, only to drop out of the race weeks before the leader was chosen.

Now he owes $529,184 for his campaign and is only permitted by Elections Canada to pay off $25,000 with his own money. If his debt isn’t repaid in three years he could face three months in jail and a fine up to $2,000.

O’Leary thinks he should be able to pay off his own debt.

I disagree.

First, this rule isn’t new. O’Leary should have known going into the race that he could only pay off $25,000 of his campaign debt with his own money.

Maybe he’s not the business mogul he claims to be if he can’t create and stick to a simple budget.

Second, if Elections Canada gives in and lets him pay, democracy will fall.

The decision would open the gates for the rich and powerful to throw their money into personal campaigns, whether qualified or not, leaving the average candidate who could do really great things for Canada without a chance. Why? Lack of personal wealth.  

That’s a slippery slope Canada should not head down.

Third, O’Leary dropped out of the race.

By campaigning with donor money, candidates are held accountable and they are more likely to stick with it to the end (and not drop out due to a fear of losing).

– Jaime

Olivia Rutt and Jaime Myslik