The NDP leadership campaign sparked considerable interest among Canadians and saw NDP membership soar, rising over 50% in six months to 128,351 on election day. Many of these first time members, such as myself, may well be interested in the NDP but may not be long term loyalists. After the campaign, the key is to convert as many of these members as possible into loyal NDP followers who can advocate for the party long into the future.
A perfect way to entrench interest in the NDP is to use the massive emailing list of new members to send out positive, interesting, and politically relevant messages. Instead, what we have gotten is a series of requests from the various losers of the election begging for money to retire their campaign debt. In my email there was three from Nash, three from Topp, and two from Dewar. Oh sure, they came with some positive preamble or other, which is good, but it just made me want to block all further emails from the NDP. Hardly an effective way to embrace new members, it was more likely to disenfranchise them.
I would not have thought this was that difficult of a principle: in a campaign, spend pretty close to the amount of money you are actually able to raise. For the winner, they are quite able to continue gaining funds after the election and can easily retire their debts. For the loser, however, they are in a much worse situation because who would want to donate to a losing candidate after they loss? And what funds they are able to raise, if they remain in politics, will always have this tarnish over it that the money is not going towards whatever big new laudable ideas are being talked about at the fundraising event, but to clean up the skeletons in the closet.
At least for the NDP, candidates like Nash who remains a prominent NDP shadow cabinet minister, she can raise funds. Next year when the Liberals have their race, some of them may well not even be MPs and may have almost no ability to raise funds if they lose and return to private life. They are going to have to be very careful.
There is a precedent here. Three candidates for the Liberal leadership race in 2006 who lost have still not retired their hundred thousand dollar debts. Elections Canada gives them eighteen months, and they have gotten two extensions since then. Recently they have been denied a third extension in court and face fines or jail time. So they should. There is too much of a culture of campaign indebtedness and the NDP should not have tolerated their candidates doing the same.
It is worth noticing that none of the campaigns have publicly announced their debts or a schedule by which they think they will be paid off, so we can only infer based on the emails and fundraising events.
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