Looks Like Democracy Is Due To Be Cut By The Feds

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.

2 Comments so far

  1. asherian on November 27th, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

    $300M is a huge amount of money. With government revenues falling due to the economic crisis and costs increasing, every little bit counts.

    The spin in this article is unsettling. This is not "cutting" Democracy — a Democracy still exists when public money isn’t being spent on political ad campaigns.

    You seem to be most upset because this will affect the Liberals proportionally more than the Conservatives right now, which is only because the Liberals (currently) have proven themselves to be completely incompetent when it comes to fundraising. They need to fix this, and they will — they should model it after Obama’s fundraising model, or even the Conservatives.

    Canada has very strict controls on donations, which you do not seem to mention when you imply this is going to make Canada a haven for special interest groups.

    Long story short, you’ve made it painfully clear you’re more upset that the Liberals are losing free money than you are about the financial stability of our federal government. The solution, rather than to whine about the lack of free money, is to focus on how the Liberals can become a competent party in the future.

  2. swoononeone (tor_trevor) on November 27th, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

    asherian I agree that $300M is a lot of money but $30M in relation to the political process is not. Yes the Liberals will likely cry loudest as they have to choose a leader and raise money to survive. That’s their own problem. Evolve or perish. During recessions average Canadians are less likely to be able to donate. All opposition parties will be massively affected by these changes. Increasing spending and the size of cabinet are not fiscal conservative plans of action. The burden of these policy decisions are massive and far outweigh the so-called short term savings that will result from the proposed reform.

    Obama did have some interesting fundraising strategies from grassroots networks to corporate funding. I don’t think any Canadian party’s fundraising effort could be compared to the massive Democrat and Republican fundraising machines. US conventions play a huge role and are 80% paid by Corporations and special interests. Since contributions to the conventions are unlimited and come directly from corporate entities these tend to outweigh the traditional contributions (regular political donations from individuals and others under tighter controls). Convention donors in the US spent over $1 Billion to lobby the government from 2005 to 2008 at an average of over $7 million per donor.

    A minority government should be able to form a consensus to survive, not operate as a dictatorship. Will the Liberals be forced to merge with the NDP or the Greens? Will they fade away or rise from the ashes? Who knows? I’m calling the proposed reform for what it is, a ploy that diminishes the opposition’s ability to form an opposition (that’s all parties in opposition). I think Canada’s Democracy is better served by it’s numerous parties so long as they represent the views of Canadian voters. The current formula uses the number of votes a party receives which, in my opinion, is a good measure of sentiment.

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