It was not long ago that Martha Hall Findlay still owed tens of thousands of dollars from her 2006 attempt to lead the federal Liberals. Now, with the debt nearly behind her, she is thinking about launching another campaign.
Ms. Hall Findlay, a lawyer and former Toronto MP who was first to enter the race six years ago, announced Wednesday that she has raised enough money to pay the remainder of what she borrowed to finance that bid. Just last month, she still owed more than $20,000 – all of it money that she had lent to her own campaign.
“I have been clear for months that I would not consider a run for the Liberal leadership with an outstanding debt,” Ms. Hall Findlay said in a statement. “With that done, I will now take some time to thank all those who have shown such tremendous support and to contemplate next steps.”
Ms. Hall Findlay, who did not return requests for interviews, has been candid about her continuing interest in leading the Liberals and has been talking about the policies she would like to introduce. Last spring, for instance, she argued in an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail that Canada’s system of supply management is regressive, costly for consumers, and should be dismantled.
If she does take part in the race that officially starts next month and wraps up in April, she would be joining front-runner Justin Trudeau, a Quebec MP, and three other declared candidates who do not hold seats in Parliament.
The Liberals have set a cap of $950,000 on election expenses for the upcoming race in order to avoid the problems that have dogged Ms. Hall Findlay and three other failed candidates from 2006 – Hedy Fry, Joe Volpe and Ken Dryden.
Rules introduced by the Conservative government in 2006, nearly two months after Ms. Hall Findlay announced her campaign, prevented any donor from giving more than $1,100, in total, to candidates in a single leadership contest. That meant any donor who had already given $1,100 to any other candidate could not donate to Ms. Hall Findlay.
With the party’s popularity waning and the pool of card-carrying Liberal donors practically exhausted, it has not been easy for her to raise funds to pay for the contest she lost six years ago to Stéphane Dion.
Marc Mayrand, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, has said the law on political loans is overly complex, incoherent, ineffective and virtually impossible to enforce. The Conservative government recently introduced a bill to change it but there is no telling how long it will take to work its way through Parliament.
A judge ruled earlier this year that Ms. Hall Findlay, Ms. Fry and Mr. Volpe had breached the Canada Elections Act by failing to repay their loans within the required amount of time. Mr. Dryden had received an earlier extension.
Because she exhausted two extensions of the original deadline for returning the money she borrowed, Ms. Hall Findlay will not be able to simply hand over the cash and clear her name. Instead, Elections Canada officials said Wednesday, she will have to go to court and ask to make a payment.
But she is clearly happy that the major hurdle has been crossed.
“There is no question, raising the funds required was a challenge due to the very difficult finance rules,” Ms. Hall Findlay said in the statement. “But, we did it, and we did it with the support of hundreds of Canadians from all across the country – we’ve received an incredible amount of support.”