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I'm an evangelical Christian, member of the CPC, but presently & unjustly exiled to wander the political wilderness.
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gazette: "It's time to end the $1.95 political subsidy"

What, they can't possibly mean to say that Harper was right, could they? Discuss.
End taxpayer subsidies for political parties
The Gazette - August 16, 2009

Last winter Stephen Harper barely survived a too-clever-by-half attempt to take away the money that political parties get from the government of Canada. Nothing unites our fractious opposition quite so quickly, it seems, as the thought that they might have to take their hands out of the taxpayers' pockets.

And Canadians, perceiving on the basis of no evidence that the change might give Harper's Conservatives an unfair advantage, also rejected the idea, to judge by opinion polls. True, chopping the subsidy would have given the Conservatives an advantage, in that they then raised far more money from individual contributions than any other party. What we don't see is how that's unfair. What's really unfair, it seems to us, is that every taxpayer is tapped to support the range of major official parties, even if she disagrees with them all.

In any case the subsidies - now up to about $1.95 a year for each vote the party received in the last election - survived unscathed.

Now it is time, we believe, to re-think this idea. The latest figures on party fund-raising, just released by Elections Canada, show that all the national parties are doing just fine, thank you: The Liberals actually raised more in the April-May-June quarter than the Conservatives did, although Harper's party had almost twice as many individual donors.

What do parties do with all that money, anyway? With the big parties raking in $4 million or so per quarter, why do they need more from taxpayers? With a federal deficit of over $50 billion, surely the government could save a few million by reining in subsidies for attack ads.

There's another interesting point here, too: The weakest donor base, by far, belongs to the Bloc Québécois. Because that party campaigns in just one province, it spends much less money than the other parties; its taxpayer subsidies leave it rolling in cash. Sensibly enough, the Bloc barely bothers to ask its supporters for donations; it asks them to give their money to the Parti Québécois instead. In a sense, then, federal taxpayers across Canada are subsidizing the PQ.

In response to this bizarre reality, some in Western Canada are proposing that the $1.95-per-vote subsidy should be available only to parties that present candidates across Canada; Green Party yes, Bloc no. This would be a mistake. The Bloc, however wrong-headed, is a legitimate democratic expression of some public opinion in Quebec, and to manipulate the rules against it would be unjust - and would be a whole new opportunity for sovereignists to manufacture outrage. Although Steven Fletcher, minister in charge of "democratic reform" has discussed this idea, he quite rightly doesn't support it. The Bloc has the right to be treated like every other party, and should not be penalized by any cunning contortions of the rules.

Which is all the more reason to shut down these subsidies altogether. Even today, in an an age when government subsidizes almost everything, helping already popular political parties remain popular and powerful at the expense of ordinary Canadians is bad politics, bad economics, and bad for democracy.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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  • At Mon. Aug. 17, 08:35:00 a.m. EDT, Anonymous gimbol said…

    Seems like this idea makes perfect sense, best of all its a clear cut choice, it does not afford a politician to spin the idea as "a complex issue"(tm) or trying to come up with a "nuanced response"(pat pending).
    Its one of those issues that if your party isn't opposed to must justify to the tax payer why they need it.
    But I digress.
    Particularly where the Bloc is concerned, there is an opportunity to keep them on the defensive next election but it requires some ground work.
    Lets say for the sake of arguement, Canadians outside of Quebec wanted to set up Bloc EDA's in their ridings. Would this be something the Bloc would object to?
    If they did would that also not be a breach of the charter?
    Going forward with this logic, if in order to avoid having to fight a charter challenge (also setting aside other obvious arguements) the Bloc removed its objectives, how would the Bloc stop the fielding of those candidates that would say things detrimental to the candidates in Quebec?
    There is ample oportunity to derail the separatists if they choose to abuse the EC Act to their advantage.
    They cannot do that and then scream "thats not fair" when the same rules are invoked to derail them.

  • At Mon. Aug. 17, 02:45:00 p.m. EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    And what's wrong with the old fashioned way when only the rich (and their criminals friends) could afford politicians?

  • At Mon. Aug. 17, 06:48:00 p.m. EDT, Blogger Sliver said…

    And what's wrong with the old fashioned way when only the rich (and their criminals friends) could afford politicians?

    By the old fashioned way you mean before Johnny Chretien introduced this about 7 years ago?

    When he had a majority?

    Nothing like padding your pockets with more tax payer cash.


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