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Tue, Dec 20, 2005

Canadian Laws Prevent Candidates From Flying To Northern Territories

They Can't Afford The Trip

Canadian lawmakers who passed a series of campaign finance reform laws in 2003 had the best of intentions... but unfortunately, they wound up hurting themselves. The laws now prevent candidates from flying to campaign in far-flung Arctic communities -- because the candidates simply can't afford it.

The reforms set a $1,000 limit on the amount of money one corporation can donate to a single candidate, according to Canada's CTV. The rules effectively cancelled a long-standing practice by northern airlines of giving free or discounted tickets to candidates -- and for many, that was the only way they could afford to visit the 58 communities in Nunavet and the Northwest Territories.

"The new campaign laws mean that airlines can no longer donate tickets to candidates, even thought they've done it for all candidates in the past," said Jack Hicks, an agent for Nunavut NDP candidate Amanda Ford-Rogers.

That leaves candidate's options for travel in those areas severely limited: there are no roads at all in Nunavet, and only occasionally passable roads in the N.W.T. In many cases, flying is the only option... and it's not cheap.

"Is it unfair? Absolutely," said Kirby Marshall, campaign manager for N.W.T. Tory candidate Richard Edjericon. "There are going to be a number of small communities who are just not going to get candidates in."

According to another campaign manager, as recently as 2000 both First Air and Canadian North issued four passes to each candidate to cover travel expenses into the Arctic Circle.

"That was huge," said Mark Heyck, manager for N.W.T. NDP hopeful Dennis Bevington. "We could fly quite a bit on that."

The $1,000 restriction, he added, doesn't cover the cost of a single flight to one of the cities in the N.W.T.

Last year -- during the first campaign held under the new restrictions -- Liberal Ethel Blondin-Andrew spent $33,000, or a third of her budget, on air travel, said campaign manager Lana Roeland.

For it's part, First Air offers candidates a reduced "commercial offer" rate on its flights, according to marketing VP Jim Ballingwall. Another option, albeit an undesirable one, is for candidates to fly standby.

That might not be enough help for some candidates, though, who may have to resort to more primative methods.

"We're feeding our (sled) dogs very, very high-quality beef," said campaign manager Marshall. He was kidding, although we're not so sure...

FMI: www.firstair.ca, www.canadiannorth.com

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