Flaherty to end campaign welfare

On November 7th, I argued that we should end government-subsidized campaign welfare in this country and follow the example set by President-elect Barack Obama and amend our electoral system to eliminate our $1.95-per-vote subsidy received by political parties each year. During the US Presidential campaign, Obama did not take a single dollar of public financing and went on to win the election. On a panel for the Public Policy Forum yesterday, I suggested to my Obama-obsessed co-panelist Judy Rebick that Mr. Hope and Change had set the wheels in motion for the elimination of public money for political campaigns.

In my post earlier this month, I suggested that such a system implemented in Canada would cause parties to actually appeal to the electorate and work for donations rather than put their hand out for a per-vote subsidy for being the least offensive option. The theory goes that if our politics inspires (Yes We Can) rather than demonizes (No They Can’t), people will show additional financial support that parties should depend on rather than be the public cash-receptacle of successful fear mongering campaigns that they are. How many Quebeckers these days actually support the Bloc Quebecois on its principles (they’ve all but abandoned sovereignty these days) rather than voting for that party to “block” the Conservatives or the Liberals?

I argued that we should end party welfare to motivate parties to appeal on their own issues.

In the past couple of hours, we’ve learned that in Jim Flaherty’s economic update tomorrow, the Conservative government will move to do just that in the name of showing that even politicians can tighten their own belts.

I may have been a bit of a tongue-in-cheek cynic by using the Obama magic to suggest removing critical funding from two parties of the left. The Bloc Quebecois, as mentioned, has depended on their status as those that could block Liberal corruption in 2006 and the Conservative Party’s… er conservatism in 2008. The Liberal Party on the other hand has depended upon what they are not. Specifically, they have warned Canadians of the Harper hidden agenda and what the Conservatives would do if they had a majority. In this spot and in relative comfort, the Liberals have relied on their per-vote subsidy. Under the new proposed financing cuts, the strength of the Liberal brand won’t matter as it is veritably without substance as conservatism is represented by the CPC and progressive politics is claimed by a resurgent NDP.

CTV reports that under Flaherty’s cuts, the parties could stand to lose up to:

* Conservatives: $10 million
* Liberals: $7.7 million
* NDP: $4.9 million
* Bloc Quebecois: $2.6 million
* Green Party: $1.8 million

Late this evening, I’ve learned that the per-vote subsidy stands to be reduced in full.

In this, the Conservatives aim to level a strategic blow to the Liberals as Conservative fundraising efforts — rooted in the Reform tradition of passing the hat in legion halls and church basements — has remained strong. Buoyed by detailed supporter databases, the party is set to compete on an advantageous — despite it’s now mutually diminished — footing with other parties. The Liberal Party still has not mastered grassroots fundraising and with an expensive year ahead with another leadership convention, Liberals will need to determine how to appeal (and fast) if they are to survive as a viable organization.

Comments

comments

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Approve
    Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  • Seal

    This move seems more to be out of desperation than anything else. With the conservatives at the helm of a period of rising government spending, missed opportunities and outright lies to Canadian about where and how they can save for their retirements (i.e. income trust flip-flopping). The Conservatives can see the writing on the wall and that they will be held accountable for current mismanagement. While the economy is slowing and jobs are being lost, is their first priority the investment in public infrastructure? Finding other revenue sources after their gutting of federal revenue streams? No – their first moves are not around how to govern better, but rather how they can make it harder for Canadians to choose someone else who will do a better job. It is incumbent on them as the government, for now, to focus on things that will truly help the people they represent. The $1.95/person isn't likely to do much for someone who just lost their job.

  • MikeW

    I have 2 brief comments.
    1) I believe this will be a money bill and therefore a confidence motion. Defeat triggers an election.
    2) Stephen having been a Reformer we did not pass the hat, rather it was a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket, it was a pay as you go thingy. It was also wonderful at the “town halls” saw Mr. Harper on a number of occasions, never imperious always humerous – absolutly contrary to the MSM portrail.

  • Michael

    Thank you for your response.

    When I used the term “effectively” I meant it. Of course anyone will still be able to vote for whichever party they choose, but if financing is eliminated, so too will be a number of parties.

    For example, a greater margin of Green party supporters are youth and students, less able and less likely to donate to their party of choice. Should the Green party become significantly diminished, or even destroyed, the choice to vote for them may become “effectively” diminished or destroyed along with it – because they will no longer exist.

    I’m not here making a point for the Green party; I am simply saying that these measures will make it more difficult for smaller parties to survive, which in the end will narrow the scope of political discourse, and discourage many voters – like young voters – who will be presented with fewer choices.

  • Frannk Premeau

    I am listing to the news from Ottawa and am so depressed! I thought that the Harper government would be lacking in lots of domains but I thought that at the least they would have a reasonable policy on the economy. I watch the American markets and by extension the American plans for dealing with this crisis very carefully. I see them saying that immediate action is very important, I see the same in China, and even old staid Europe is getting off their butts and stimulating the economy. But here in Canada we are playing political games! Nothing serious…. we are in the worst crisis for 100 years and they are talking tonight about reducing their pay raise!??

  • Scott H

    Steve is killing off Canadian democracy, and he’s using his failed ecomic policies as insurance to do so.

    I think this move by the Harper Conservative government is quite transparent: crush the opposition by letting them suffocate under their own debts. How can we honestly expect opposition parties to raise any significant amount of $ during a recession? Perhaps Harper should be focusing more on his Made-in-Ottawa deficit that’s been created over the past 2 years, or the 200,000 manufacturing jobs that he’s helped lose, rather than how to crush the wallet of his opponents.

    This isn’t a plan for democracy, it’s Conservative damage patrol for Harper’s terrible economic policy.

    $2 so that opposing voices can be heard – That’s what this is about, and it’s those opposition voices that this move is trying to silence. A democracy is a system in which informed dissent and opposition is encouraged, so that debate can ensue and the best policies can be developed and initiated. In our economic system, opposition parties need that $2, because it allows their voices to be heard. Without it, we’re going to be hearing nothing but the power of the Harper dictatorship becoming more firmly entranched in Ottawa.

  • BCVoiceOfReason

    The best thing that cutting campaign welfare is that it makes the parties come up with some reason to support them. The relatively low limits means that a lot of people have to support the concepts and their are is not enough influence provided by a $1000 donation to merit the assignment of a senate seat / judgeship or other tanglible benefits that have been bought in the past.

    The great opportunity is that it forces the parties to stand for something that significant number of people feel strong enough to support with financial donations. The cult of personality takes a back seat to policy. The Liberals will have to change their focus to platform rather than who looks good facing off with Harper.

  • Gabby in QC

    Thank you for your response.

    “1. Remove the restriction on individual amounts. What business is it of the government how much I wish to donate to any party?”
    I am assuming by your posts that you hold “progressive” views (with a dash of libertarian attitude). I am thus surprised that you would not object to millionaires (yes, despite the economic situation, they still walk, or should I say ride, among us) being able to contribute a great deal of money to fund a political party or a candidate. Can you say “possible influence peddling”?

    “2. Remove the ban on corporate, union and third party donations.”
    Your entire argument re: people now being “disbarred from voting” falls on this point.
    I used to belong to a union here in Quebec that usually chose to support the Parti Quebecois.
    • I was not given the option whether to belong to that union or not
    • I was not given the option whether to pay the union dues or not
    • I was not given the option whether to allow the union to speak on my behalf by supporting, via my union dues, a political party I did not personally support.
    How is that system more democratic than the present system?

    “If I don’t like what these organizations do, it’s between myself and the organizations, not the business of the government.”
    Sure, let me, a simple union member who never took out an active membership card (my way of not complying with the union), dare fight the union by myself. Does the word “blacklist” mean anything to you?

    “3. Drop the tax credit for political donations.”
    I would have agreed with you on that until I read this part:
    “Why isn’t Jim Flaherty proposing all of these?
    Because #1 and #2 would benefit the Liberals and the NDP and #3 would hurt the Conservatives.”

    What you seem to imply is that the only reason conservatives donate to the Conservative party is because they get a tax credit (not a tax REFUND as my local talk show guy was arguing today).
    Maybe some do, and others don’t.
    I don’t claim to know the motivation of my fellow conservatives.
    But do you have any proof that Liberals and NDPers don’t do the same thing, i.e. contribute only because they know they’ll be getting a tax credit?
    Or are all Liberal and NDP supporters so pure of heart, not subject to human temptations?

    “If Chretien had done this back in 2003 when eh introduced these reforms, you guys would be apoplectic about how terribly unfair it was.”
    Actually, it was Chretien who introduced new funding laws – no more union and no more corporate donations, and a ceiling of $5400 (initially proposed $10000 for individual donations, if memory serves).

    It would be instructive to review what happened when the legislation was first introduced by Chretien in February 2003:
    http://multinationalmonitor.org/mm2003/03march/march03front.html
    “… The bill comes as Chretien is in his last year of power, forced to step down after 10 years as prime minister by his party’s own caucus, which by and large supports leadership contender and former finance minister Paul Martin. In the leadership race that is underway, Martin has been criticized for refusing to disclose many of his donors. Many view the legislative initiative as a way for the prime minister to focus attention on this aspect of his long-time rival’s campaign.

    “The appearance of this legislation at this time is too driven by internal Liberal politics and needs: the need of the Prime Minister to whitewash various scandals from his record before he retires; the need to deal with his leadership rival within the Liberal Party; and the need to deal with the bank debts of the Liberal Party itself,” says Stephen Harper, leader of the opposition Canadian Alliance Party.

    While the three other opposition parties agree with the principles of the proposed law, and plan to support it, [then-Opposition Leader] *Harper argues that taxpayers should not be forced to further subsidize political parties.* “When the Liberal public relations rhetoric is set aside, the true nature of the bill is simply the replacement by the government of its addiction to large business and union donations with an addiction to taxpayer funding.”

    The prime minister will also have to contend with opposition within his own party. Liberal Party President Stephen LeDrew refers to the idea of banning corporate donors as “dumb as a bag of hammers,” and some Liberal members of Parliament agree with this sentiment. But polls show strong public support for the corporate and union donation ban, and Chretien has announced that the vote on the bill will be a confidence vote, meaning that if it fails to pass, the government may fall. As a result, most Liberals are expected to vote in favor of it. …”

    So, is PM Harper now out to annihilate other parties? Or stifle democracy?
    Nah hah! He was always opposed to taxpayer funding of political parties, even when in opposition.

  • gwgm

    Harper is beyond brilliant. What a move.

    Love the Liberals crying about mean-spirited PMSH and his desire to kick the Liberals when they're down.
    I don't remember such comments coming from these people when that do-nothing Chretien didn't have another thought in his head aside from kicking the 'right' in the galloolies at every opportunity.
    Live by the sword, die by the sword.
    I saw a report that the rudderless Libs are looking to Chretien for advice. You can say a lot of negative things about the bugger, but he's not a wimp. He played hardball, and he was good at it. The best advice he could give to the Libs now is to shut up, grow up, stop whining, put a knife in Dion, and don't pick a wuss the next time.

    As for the prospect of the Liberals getting into a coalition bed with the SEPARATISTS, that would be THE END of the party. Poof. Gone. Dead.

    The LIBERALS IN BED WITH THE SEPARATISTS would drive a stake through their chests in Quebec and fortress Toronto. I wish they would do it, but there's no way in hell they will do anything but head for the lobby when the bells start to ring.

  • Gabby in QC

    This reply of mine to Mike seems to have gone astray. I don't know what happened to it …

    Mike, thank you for your response.

    “1. Remove the restriction on individual amounts. What business is it of the government how much I wish to donate to any party?”
    I am assuming by your posts that you hold “progressive” views (with a dash of libertarian attitude). I am thus surprised that you would not object to millionaires (yes, despite the economic situation, they still walk, or should I say ride, among us) being able to contribute a great deal of money to fund a political party or a candidate. Can you say “possibility of influence peddling”?

    “2. Remove the ban on corporate, union and third party donations.”
    Your entire argument re: people now being “disbarred from voting” falls on this point.
    I used to belong to a union here in Quebec that usually chose to support the Parti Quebecois.
    • I was not given the option whether to belong to that union or not
    • I was not given the option whether to pay the union dues or not
    • I was not given the option whether to allow the union to speak on my behalf by supporting, via my union dues, a political party I did not personally support.
    How is that system more democratic than the present system, in which union and corporate donations are banned?

    “If I don't like what these organizations do, it’s between myself and the organizations, not the business of the government.”
    Sure, let a simple union member who never took out an active membership card (my way of not complying with the union), dare fight the union by myself. Does the word “blacklist” mean anything to you?

    “3. Drop the tax credit for political donations.”
    I would have agreed with you on that until I read this part:
    “Why isn't Jim Flaherty proposing all of these?
    Because #1 and #2 would benefit the Liberals and the NDP and #3 would hurt the Conservatives.”

    What you seem to imply is that the only reason conservatives donate to the Conservative party is because they get a tax credit (not a tax REFUND as my local talk show guy was arguing today).
    Maybe some do, and others don't.
    I don't claim to know the motivation of my fellow conservatives.
    But do you have any proof that Liberals and NDPers don't do the same thing, i.e. contribute only because they know they'll be getting a tax credit?
    Or are all Liberal and NDP supporters so pure of heart, not subject to human temptations?

    “If Chretien had done this back in 2003 when eh introduced these reforms, you guys would be apoplectic about how terribly unfair it was.”
    Actually, Chretien introduced new funding laws – no more union and no more corporate donations, and a ceiling of $5400 (initially proposed $10000 for individual donations, if memory serves).

    It would be instructive, though, to review what happened when the legislation was first introduced by Chretien in February 2003:
    http://multinationalmonitor.org/mm2003/03march/
    “… The bill comes as Chretien is in his last year of power, forced to step down after 10 years as prime minister by his party's own caucus, which by and large supports leadership contender and former finance minister Paul Martin. In the leadership race that is underway, Martin has been criticized for refusing to disclose many of his donors. Many view the legislative initiative as a way for the prime minister to focus attention on this aspect of his long-time rival's campaign.

    “The appearance of this legislation at this time is too driven by internal Liberal politics and needs: the need of the Prime Minister to whitewash various scandals from his record before he retires; the need to deal with his leadership rival within the Liberal Party; and the need to deal with the bank debts of the Liberal Party itself,” says Stephen Harper, leader of the opposition Canadian Alliance Party.

    While the three other opposition parties agree with the principles of the proposed law, and plan to support it, [then-Opposition Leader] *Harper argues that taxpayers should not be forced to further subsidize political parties.* “When the Liberal public relations rhetoric is set aside, the true nature of the bill is simply the replacement by the government of its addiction to large business and union donations with an addiction to taxpayer funding.”

    The prime minister will also have to contend with opposition within his own party. Liberal Party President Stephen LeDrew refers to the idea of banning corporate donors as “dumb as a bag of hammers,” and some Liberal members of Parliament agree with this sentiment. But polls show strong public support for the corporate and union donation ban, and Chretien has announced that the vote on the bill will be a confidence vote, meaning that if it fails to pass, the government may fall. As a result, most Liberals are expected to vote in favor of it. …”

    So, is PM Harper now out to annihilate other parties? Or stifle democracy?
    Nah hah! He was always opposed to taxpayer funding of political parties, even when he was in opposition.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Approve
    Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  • http://www.bluebloggingsoapbox.com BBS

    With all the predictions of the end of democracy in Canada without taxpayer subsidies how is it that the majority of Municipal candidates in Ontario manage to fundraise and run campaigns without any assistance?

  • Floyd in Ottawa

    This subsidy was put in place in 2004 by the Chretien led Liberals, who had a majority at the time. It was put in for one reason: The Liberals knew that Adscam would cause them to lose massive amounts of funding from donors, not to mention the massive amounts of funding from the Adscam-type deals themselves. How rotten is that? Now the Convervatives are being viciously attacked on all sides for wanting to remove the subsidy. How rotten is that?? I don't blame the NDP, Greens and Bloc for squawking about this, however the Liberal leadership should be ashamed of themselves. Again.

  • kenboldt

    this is a garbage move. Many voters are not in a financial position to drop big money to support the party of their choice, however they do have the ability to vote for the party of their choice. This “welfare” as you call it helps to reduce strategic voting and allows voters to truly have a voice and vote for the party that they really support because they know that they will benefit financially from the vote.

  • Scott

    I think it was a posting by Robert McClelland that said Lib-Bloc-NDP would form a coalition, as much as I hate the sound of it, he was right….but I do question the logic here……why not move the choice to the Income tax return and let me decide if I want my 1.95 per year going to a political party.

    Also if this was the case why not bring in a law like Austrialia has and fine people that don't vote 100 dollars. Those that don't vote (the 100) would go in a kitty and be split amoungst all partys equally.

  • http://ra-kanzlei-hamm.de Amy – Familienrecht

    There is no wonder that conservatives are holding the very first place in this impromptu “pop chart”, because, you know, in its etymology they have some relations with tin cans and all their preservatives properties. So they are maybe the hottest upcoming properties on the horizon… as The New Language of Politics used to say.

  • http://ra-kanzlei-hamm.de Amy – Familienrecht

    There is no wonder that conservatives are holding the very first place in this impromptu “pop chart”, because, you know, in its etymology they have some relations with tin cans and all their preservatives properties. So they are maybe the hottest upcoming properties on the horizon… as The New Language of Politics used to say.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeanalyn-McWhite/100000490324136 Jeanalyn McWhite

    To
    understand
    about a well-
    recognized

    personality
    on
    the web
    is quiet
    enjoyable
    . Accident Lawyer Fort Lauderdale | Accident Lawyer In Fort Lauderdale