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After months of debate and politicking, and some last-minute compromise, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's bill to reform political financing easily passed the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Despite earlier grumbling by some Liberal MPs, they stood by the government as the bill passed 172-62, backed by the NDP and the Bloc Québécois.

Only the Alliance and the Tories opposed the bill, which limits corporate and union donations to political parties to $1,000 and allows them at the riding association level only, not to federal parties directly.

The bill also limits donations from individuals to $5,000.

Mr. Chrétien offered a compromise deal to disgruntled MPs and party brass last week which increased the taxpayer subsidy portion of the bill to $1.75 per vote per party, based on the previous election, up from $1.50.

He also offered a one-time lump sum of that public subsidy paid to political parties on Jan. 1, to cover the transition costs to the new system. In subsequent years, the public subsidy would be paid quarterly.

Those amendments were passed Tuesday, having pacified most backbenchers who initially protested the bill.

Liberal party president Stephen LeDrew and national caucus chair Stan Keyes had appeared before a Commons committee to argue that an earlier version of the legislation would leave the Liberal party short as much as $1.3-million.

Word of the agreement reached last week between Mr. Chrétien and his fractious caucus infuriated some opposition members who oppose the provision that would see taxpayers footing even more of the bill for political parties.

The legislation passed Wednesday also ensured a boost to the amount of money refunded to political candidates after they run, to 60 per cent of campaign expenses from 50 per cent.

It gives a one-time increase (to cover the next election) in the rebates given to federal parties to 60 per cent of the monies spent on an election campaign, up from the current 22.5 per cent. The legislation provides for a permanent increase to 50 per cent.

The bill now goes to the Liberal-dominated Senate where it is expected to pass easily.

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