Jim Flaherty, the Minister of Finance and Minister Responsible for the GTA, is set to provide a fiscal update today. One of the talking points appears to be a measure to eliminate public subsidies for all political parties. This is proposed to save the government about $30 million. (The Conservatives have earned $10 million, the Liberals $7.7 million, the NDP $4.9 million, the Bloc $2.6 million and $1.8 million for the Greens)
Under the current system a polical party would receive $1.95 for every vote cast in a federal election, provided they win at least 2% of the national popular vote. With the abysmal turnout during the last election at a cost of $300 million this subsidy cut seems insane. Are the Conservatives now saying that they would prefer to have parties spend more time fund raising? Sounds like a calling card for more special interests and corporate slush fund adventures. With the Conservatives and the Liberals already dabbling in “adscams” of $1 million what new lows would be achieved by this plan. The current government, which has bloated spending, reduced tax revenues and increased the size of cabinet even after winning a minority, is more than a bit irresponsible on this issue. Talk of “belt tightening”, technical recessions and necessary deficits aside reality must set in.
A subsidy that, by its nature, promotes a diverse political base at a cost of about $1 per citizen is not the first area which should be cut. Mr. Flaherty’s proposal seems to be more in tune with disarming the opposition, much like the first term of the government under its confidence vote debauchery. On paper the Conservatives stand to lose the most, $10 million. That amount is less than 40% of their operating revenues, it wont hurt as much of what all opposition parties will feel. The current subsidy accounts for about 60% for the other parties (over 80% for the Bloc). Other measures like a cancellation of April’s $2 million MP salary increase are a step in the right direction as is potential relief for Canadians faced with mandated withdrawals from registered retirement income funds (RRIFs).
The inaction on several other integral portfolios is criminal. Hopefully the opposition can make Mr. Flaherty come to his senses but will this be at the cost of another election? The GTA and Canada as a whole can’t afford any further mismanagement or political posturing. The political party sudsidies are not campaign welfare Mr. Flaherty but are more likely Democracy assistance that should be preserved, and not slashed.