So you want to run for politics, but worry about the financial costs of taking time off work to campaign. Have you set up an “emergency political campaign fund”? Probably not.
Most of us don’t have access to the kind of money needed to mount a political campaign, let alone the kind of money needed to take several weeks off. at country.
In the winter of 2021, the provincial election in Newfoundland and Labrador was expected to be the shortest campaign ever at 28 days – but due to COVID-19 factors it ended up being the longest provincial history campaign – over eight weeks long. It has left many candidates in a financial bind and underscored the uneven playing field at the heart of electoral politics.
Some candidates returned to work and stopped actively campaigning to pay the bills, while others continued to campaign but suffered financially. Some may not have been allowed to return to work until the end of the campaign. The incumbents, on the other hand, continued to receive their salaries throughout, which gave them a clear advantage.
This is one of the ways the political system continues to reproduce pre-existing power dynamics.
Money should not prevent potential political candidates from running for office, but it is an important factor in Canadian politics at all levels of government. Game rules affect both how we play the game and who plays in the first place. It is time to make these rules fairer.
Research shows that women, racialized candidates, immigrants, Indigenous candidates, and candidates with disabilities have less access to money to mount a political campaign than others. These groups are more likely to have lower paying jobs than white men, and they are less likely to be part of affluent social networks – they have fewer “friends with money”, which makes it harder fundraising.
When marginalized groups show up, it is harder for them to win because the amount of money they have affects their chances of succeeding on election day.
How to make the rules fairer?
In the United States, groups like EMILY’s List seek to fund the campaigns of women who come forward. The acronym stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast because early donations increase and help the candidate gain momentum and are more effective than late-stage campaign donations.
We don’t have a program like this in Canada because campaign finance rules prevent it.
Equal Voice Canada, whose mandate is to elect more women to government, can spend money to support training and networking, but it cannot donate money to individual candidates or campaigns. due to financial restrictions on non-unionized third-party organizations.
Fundraising rules for political campaigns are complicated and vary across the country, but they often consistently make it difficult for women and other minority groups.
Campaign rules generally also prevent income replacement for candidates who cannot afford time off from work to campaign and do not allow child care expenses incurred during a campaign to be paid.
Because we’re stuck in old ways of thinking, we end up with the same old guys we always have.
If we want to expand the pool of candidates, non-traditional candidates must have more access to money: money to finance the campaign itself, but also money to replace lost income, to cover childcare and other related expenses that will result from the decision to run for office.
Parties can and should do more: they have the power to solve many of these problems themselves. But it is also time to reform campaign finance across the country. If we want to change the players, we have to change the rules of the game.