If one is an example, two is a coincidence and three is a trend, Canada’s campaign finance and spending laws are in trouble.

Serious loopholes in the rules that govern how money can be raised and spent have been exposed at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. And all within the past month.

Scarborough city councillor Jim Karygiannis used a weakness in Toronto’s campaign rules to spend $190,000 — more than three times his $61,000 spending limit — by doling out the bulk of the money after he won his seat in last October’s election, rather than during the campaign.

He managed to pay 21 people $81,000, two to three months after Torontonians cast their ballots. What for? We have no idea because the rules don’t require councillors to disclose details about “expenses not subject to spending limits” when they publicly file their campaign expenses.

Premier Doug Ford exposed a vulnerability in Ontario’s laws by using his long-finished and debt-free leadership campaign to continue to raise money.

Asking well-heeled donors to donate the legal maximum to both the Ontario Progressive Conservative party and Ford’s leadership campaign essentially doubles individual contribution limits. By law those leadership campaign funds have to be transferred to the party, so that little trick has boosted the party’s coffers by more than half a million dollars.

Ford has also exposed the inadequacies of federal campaign advertising laws with his anti-carbon tax TV commercials.

Those ads target Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and benefit federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. And yet, no matter how long they run and how many millions are spent, they will not reduce Scheer’s ad-spending limits for the upcoming federal election.

That move is actually exploiting two terrible loopholes in one since it also takes advantage of the failure of Ontario’s laws to stop a premier from using the government’s money — taxpayers’ dollars — for such a blatantly partisan purpose.

The Canada Elections Act does have rules for third-party advertising but they don’t apply to provincial governments. In writing those laws, legislators didn’t include provinces, probably because they didn’t imagine that a premier would abuse provincial taxpayer dollars in the way Ford is doing.

Just as provincial legislators didn’t include a rule to ban debt-free leadership campaigns from fundraising because they didn’t anticipate that anyone would skirt the rules the way Ford’s PCs have.

And municipal leaders, no doubt, did not foresee a situation where a councillor would see cause to pay people more to pick up election signs than to drop them off when it matters most, you know, during the campaign, and whatever else might have been covered off by “honoraria” of up to $10,000 that Karygiannis paid for undisclosed activities.

In this, Karygiannis is clear that he did nothing wrong because his campaign “followed the rules.” Ford also says he’s doing nothing but following “the rules.”

That doesn’t make it okay and they should really know that. These rule-skirting, self-serving moves do nothing but contribute to voter cynicism about politics and politicians.

Limits on campaign spending, individual contributions and advertising are all designed to help ensure fair elections and level the playing field for candidates.

Now that these loopholes have been well and truly exposed by unscrupulous politicians they can’t be closed too soon.