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Liberals put $950,000 spending cap on leadership race

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae delivers a speech during the Liberal Summer Caucus at Chateau Montebello in Quebec on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The federal Liberals have set a $950,000 spending limit on a leadership race that formally gets underway in November and wraps up in Ottawa next April 14.

The spending cap is higher than some Liberals had proposed — and almost double the limit set by the NDP in their leadership race last winter — which could favour a high-profile, powerful fundraiser such as Justin Trudeau.

The party has also put in place a relatively steep $75,000 non-refundable entry fee, to be paid in three instalments, that could narrow the field and keep out political gadflys.

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And in a nod to embarrassing leadership debt problems that still plague several of the also-rans in the 2006 Liberal leadership race, the new rules stipulate that no candidate can run up a total campaign debt of more than $75,000.

With the once-mighty Big Red Machine down to 35 seats and third-party status in the House of Commons, many Liberals feel the party has to get this leadership race right.

Candidates will be able to sign up paying party members or non-paying supporters up to 41 days before the April 14 vote, and all supporters will have to register with the party before being eligible to cast a ballot.

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