[R-G] Communists fight anti-democratic law in Canada
mstainsby at dojo.tao.ca
Fri Nov 15 15:49:55 MST 2002
Election law fight heads to top court
Communists battle 50-candidate rule
By KIRK MAKIN
Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Monday, November 4, 2002 Page A4
Communist Party of Canada leader Michael [sic- Miguel] Figueroa was
despondent when he learned that his party would be stripped of its
assets for not fielding 50 candidates in the 1993 federal election.
"The atmosphere at our office was close to panic," he recalled. "We felt
as if we were being banned as a political party. It was incredibly
The culprit was a new law to put fringe parties out of business, enacted
in an attempt to limit a blossoming field of small parties and single-
issue candidates. No one had even noticed the seizure provision until
the Communist Party was suddenly faced with liquidating everything it
In one of the odder turnarounds in recent political history, a party
broadly viewed as inclined toward totalitarianism was forced into a
legal war to save Canada from an antidemocratic law.
Its crusade concludes in the Supreme Court of Canada tomorrow,when CPC
lawyer Peter Rosenthal will clash with federal government lawyers
defending the 50-candidate rule.
"The big parties have this shared interest in keeping the playing field
for themselves," Mr. Figueroa said. "It is like having a private
country club where the members can decide who gets to be in the club.
But elections should not be a private club."
Created out of the blue in mid-1993, the 50-candidate rule could hardly
have come at a worse time for the CPC. Liberalized perestroika
(restructuring) policies in the Soviet Union had created factional
turmoil in the Communist Party of Canada. By the eve of the 1993
election, the party was so paralyzed that it could come up with just
Along with a handful of other small parties, it was deregistered.
The party quickly called an emergency meeting and hammered out a
survival strategy. Members were told not to send election donations,
since they would be seized by Ottawa. They were asked to send money
instead to a legal defence fund to finance the court challenge.
Shell-shocked party officials then set about liquidating their fixed
assets. As much as possible, the proceeds were kept out of government
hands by channelling them into non-election uses.
"Can you imagine having to ask your supporters in the middle of a
campaign not to send money?" Mr. Figueroa said.
The deregistration created strange bedfellows. Mr. Figueroa recalled
receiving a letter from the leader of the Christian Heritage Front, who
said his members were praying for well-being of the Communist Party.
In a brief to the Supreme Court, federal lawyers argue that with 301
federal constituencies across the country, 50 is "a reasonable line,
drawn for the right reasons at the right place." They cite the need to
weed out "frivolous" or one-issue candidates, leaving the field clear
for serious parties who represent a substantial proportion of the
The government also cites a need to prevent undeserving parties from
issuing tax-deductible receipts, thus depleting federal coffers.
So far, the government has not fared well. Mr. Rosenthal convinced Madam
Justice Anne Molloy of Ontario Superior Court in 1999 to strike down the
entire 50-candidate policy as a constitutional violation.
The Ontario Court of Appeal gave a mixed ruling when it heard the case,
restoring a couple of portions.
As things now stand, Ottawa cannot seize the assets of a deregistered
party, nor can it keep half the $1,000 deposit for each candidate of a
The most critical issue for the Supreme Court will be the legality of
the 50-candidate threshold itself, a threshold which prevents small
parties from issuing tax credits to contributors and from having the
party's name printed beside the name of its candidates on election
External Relations Co-ordinator,
Douglas Students Union.
In the contradiction lies the hope. --Bertholt Brecht.
"`Order rules in Berlin.' You stupid lackeys! Your
`order' is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will rear
ahead once more and announce to your horror amid the brass
of trumpets: `I was, I am, I always will be!'"
-Rosa Luxemburg, 1918.
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