Monday, June 29, 2009

Ending Subsidies To Political Parties — Could Be Back On The Agenda?

According to MacLean's magazine, the proposal to eliminate per-vote subsidies to political parties could resurface come next election:
Whenever the election does come, Harper has one plan in mind for afterward: the elimination of public funding to political parties. A punishing blow to his opponents. Sure, the idea caused a showdown last autumn, the adviser said. “But in retrospect, we should have stuck to our guns. It was strategically smart. It’s still strategically smart. We’re going to run again on it. And we’re going to do it, if we win the next election. It’s coming.”
Why stop here? Apart from the per-vote subsidy, qualified political parties get 50% of their election expenses reimbursed by Elections Canada. So if we want to take the public funds out of politics, then let's go all the way and abolish the election expenses reimbursement as well.

This will put an end to the status-quo, when major political parties can become "election ready" in 12-18 months without even bothering to solicit individual party members for donations. (They get half of their campaign expenses back right away and the rest adds up in 4-6 quarterly installments thanks to the per-vote subsidy.) This will leave it up to the voters to decide which political party they would like to support, forcing every political party to listen to the individual members, rather than just sending them flyers and requests for more donations.

And, if you are concerned about the low-income Canadians who don't have much cash to donate to a political party - first of all, that's what the tax credit for the political party contributions is for. Contributions of up to $400 a year qualify for 75% tax credit. Donate $20 and get $15 back. Then let's not forget that the allowance is only $1.99 per vote. ($1.75 adjusted to inflation.) Campaign expense limit is something like $1 or so per registered voter in the riding. Thus - if 1 in 5 voters donate just $20 a year to the political parties of their choice - that would be more than enough to compensate for the lost public funds.

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