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Saskatchewan NDP, advocate calls for campaign finance reform

There have been calls to reform campaign finances in Saskatchewan politics for years.

Charles Smith is one of those who say change is needed, even writing an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail with Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili on the topic three years ago.

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Smith, who is a political studies professor at the University of Saskatchewan, believes Saskatchewan is the Wild West when it comes to political contributions.

“When you have unlimited campaign donation rules, the public can ask questions about who are you really governing for, even if that’s not true,” he said.

However, one of Smith’s colleagues said there are pros and cons to allowing organizations to donate.

“For some folks, they think that kind of tradition is still important — whether it’s left, right, environmental or otherwise — to have those voices to be able to participate and donate and make campaign contributions,” Greg Poelzer said.

Elections Saskatchewan oversees all contributions to political parties.

There are no limits on how much a person or a group can donate, only that it is listed on a public database if more than $250.

The premier said it is one of the most straightforward ways for political parties to operate, noting it stops the formation of political action groups.

“The system we have here in the province is transparent. In many ways it keeps that transparency within the political parties — within Elections Saskatchewan’s reach and realm,” Scott Moe told reporters on Wednesday.

In 2017, the NDP tabled a bill banning corporate and union donations, but every Saskatchewan Party MLA voted it down.

Poelzer added government can take the pulse of the people to see whether they think changes are needed.

“It wouldn’t be untoward say, after the next provincial election, whoever forms government, to take a bit of a small provincial study or commission and go province-wide and see where the electorate really wants to land,” he said.

Campaign reform measures have taken place in other provinces in recent years, including in B.C., Alberta and Manitoba.

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