Monday, January 10, 2011

Defunding Political Parties - Time For Another Attempt?

Looks like the issue could resurface - either as a part of the post-recession "belt-tightening" budget or even as an election issue should the government fall on a budget or any other confidence vote. Meanwhile, the question of handouts to political parties has received some attention from the major newspapers:
I already knew (as no doubt many of you did, too) that the Bloc is more dependent on the subsidies than any other party. The Tories rely on these per-vote payments for about 40% of their annual party operating funds, the NDP for not quite 60%, the Liberals for around 70% and the Bloc for between 85% and 90%.

There’s an irony for you. The one party in Parliament committed to breaking up the country is also the most reliant on the generosity of hardworking Canadian taxpayers. (Perhaps that’s not an irony so much as it’s an outrage.)
Last year the Tories received $10.4 million from taxpayers through the scheme administered by Elections Canada. The Liberals were given $7.3 million, the New Democrats $5 million, the Bloc Quebecois $2.8 million and the Greens $1.9 million.
But let's not forget - per-vote subsidies to political parties is just the tip of the iceberg. There's also election expenses reimbursement (as much as 50% for parties and candidates that meet a certain threshold) and generous tax credits for political party contributions.

The CHP proposal to let each one specify on his tax return whether he wants to direct his $2 to a political party or to a special education fund administered by Elections Canada, is merely a cosmetic solution. In my opinion, handouts to political parties should end in every form there is. The government's role should be limited to setting and enforcing the rules, it must ensure that there are no cash-stuffed briefcases or donations from entities that use someone else's money involved. But the funding should come from individual contributors. Subsidizing incumbency, refunding election expenses and matching one's donation 3:1 - that better be stopped.

P.S. Here's a great article by Ezra Levant:
Fewer than one in 100 Canadians donate to a federal political party.

It’s not surprising, considering the low esteem in which most Canadians hold politicians. And a political party is not a charity, even though a political donation receives a more generous tax treatment than a charitable one does.

But no matter. In 2004, the Liberal Party amended the Elections Act to force all Canadians to donate to political parties through their taxes.
Sure beats having to go door-to-door earning support one cheque at a time.
The Conservatives lost control of the issue last time. They should take control this time and make abolishing the handout a central plank of their looming 2011 election platform.
What he said.


Osumashi Kinyobe said...

Only in Canada can this outrage occur.

The Rational Number said...

I would like to calmly register my disagreement with your post.

I feel that public support balances against the influence of private money. I don't want elections to be bought and sold as in other countries. Public money should be distributed objectively and fairly, with no bias against specific parties.

Leonard said...

>I don't want elections to be bought
>and sold as in other countries.
That's what the donation limits and financing rules are for. If anything - it's the government funding (including the election expenses reimbursement,) that allows some political parties (especially the Bloc) to buy themselves a fully funded campaign with little or no fundraising.

The Rational Number said...

I don't want a single party state, I think parties in power need good opposition to challenge them. I feel my money invested in parties other than my preferred party is a good investment. Kinda like encouraging competition. If the leader dominates too much, there's less competition.

Osumashi Kinyobe said...

My money should not go to political parties or persons I don't support. Canada, for all of its problems, is hardly a banana republic with puppet generalissimo.

Leonard said...

>I don't want a single party state,
>I think parties in power need good
>opposition to challenge them.
Public funding benefits the governing party to much greater extent. With more votes, they get more funds in per-vote subsidies and, since they spend more on campaign, their reimbursement checks are larger. So, at closer look it turns out that instead of encouraging competition, public subsidies actually drive it out of business.

Now, if the incumbents had to work hard to solicit their supporters for funds to finance their campaign, instead of cashing in government checks - that would make the campaign far more competitive.