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Candada Considers Limiting Donations

February 12, 2003

TORONTO (AP) _ Prime Minister Jean Chretien introduced a bill Tuesday to sharply reduce corporate and union contributions to political parties and candidates, calling it the best chance to restore faith in Canadian democracy.

His voice raspy with emotion, Chretien said he has seen the public lose faith in government and the democratic process during almost four decades in public office.

The proposal, which would require Parliament’s approval, would make Canada ``a model for democracy,″ the prime minister said in Parliament in Ottawa.

The measure, the most sweeping revision of Canadian electoral law in decades, would ban donations by corporations, unions or associations to national political parties.

It would allow contributions up to $650 a year to district party organizations, known as riding associations. Individuals could contribute up to $6,500 a year to parties or candidates.

To replace the money now received in unlimited private donations, Chretien proposed a system of public funding for parties based on how many votes they receive. Public money would pay 90 percent of expenses incurred by political parties, up from about 60 percent now, officials said.

In response to the estimated $26.5 million price tag, Chretien said it breaks down to a little more than a dollar per person.

``This is a very small price to pay for helping to improve our democracy,″ he said.

Chretien said the measure would eliminate a perception that corporations can buy government influence. It includes prison terms and fines for corporations and people evading the restrictions.

It also would expand donor disclosure requirements that currently apply to election campaigns to include party leadership races.

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