Friday, January 14, 2011

Public Subsidy of Political Parties

The issue is back in the media and I am happy that it is.   I am completely and utterly disgusted that tax dollars are going to political parties in Ottawa.  The idea that $27,000,000 have gone to five national political parties is just wrong.   This is money that should be used for the benefit of the people of the nation, not unaccountable private organization that use the money to sell their propaganda to the public.

The subsidy is based on the number of votes a party gets in the previous election.   The only way a Canadian can stop some of the money from going to the parties is to not vote.   The subsidy means that your vote is not only a vote, but also an agreement that some of your tax dollars will go to a political party that you have no right to review what they do and have no direct influence over.

We need to end this subsidy now.   It is unethical to take public money and give it to private partisan organizations.  

There also has to be an end to tax deductions for political contributions.   This is another way the government subsidies the political parties.    There is no place for this either.  Political parties are not charities.   If you are a charity you are not allowed to engage in any political activities, you have to use your money for specific public good activities.    Political parties do not have to meet these restrictions and do not have to open their books to the public.

Very few Canadians are members of political parties, at most about 500,000 people.   Most of these people are in the top 20% of incomes in Canada.   The public subsidy and political tax credit are transfers of taxes dollars from the poorer 80% to the richer 20% of the nation.

If a candidate is running federally they can spend about $90,000 in the election.   If they have 2000 supporters that is only $45 per person average they need to achieve.   The problem is that political parties are no longer mass membership organizations and are looking for short cuts to deal with the fact they are not popular and very few people are willing to give them money.

If the goal of the money is for the parties to get their message out, this is no longer needed.  With the internet there is no shortage of sources of information for the public to make a decision.  There is also the media.   There are more than enough sources of information for the public that it gets no benefit from political parties spending the money.  

The goal of our political system is to benefit the broad public of the nation.   Public subsidy of political parties of any form does not serve the interests of the people of the nation.

If the Conservatives come out and say they will get rid of the subsidy, I will not only vote for them, I will very actively campaign for them.


David Bratzer said...

I'm not a fan of this program either, although I understand that its purpose is to reduce the political influence of corporations and unions. That said, the program is small compared to the billions of dollars spent every year by the federal government. This program is a tiny portion of the federal budget and in my opinion it should not be a defining reason to vote for or against any political party.

My main concern about this program is that it may have given the Bloc Quebecois the funding required to lock up the Quebec vote. The Green party received $1.9 million but it spends that money throughout Canada. The Bloc Quebecois received $2.8 million but it gets to spend all of that money in Quebec. This in turn has a real impact on the composition of other national parties.

We know now, in retrospect, that it was a political mistake for Harper to attempt to cut this program. I think he would have been more successful if he reduced the program in incremental measures (eg. from $2 a vote to $1.25 a vote).

Rather than $27 million going directly to political parties, I would rather see that money go toward voter education and outreach efforts. This could be done in a manner that is inversely proportional to the number of people who voted in the last election. Eg. for every Canadian of voting age who did not vote in the last election, $2 would go towards a fund designed to encourage more people to vote.

Barry Rueger said...

I'll argue that the single biggest problem with Canadian politics (and USian) is the huge amount of money needed to run for office. That leads almost inevitably to corruption, influence peddling, and to a sense that those elected must return favours.

If we're to have a government that is genuinely democratic, that is not subject to (undue) influence by the rich or powerful, then we need to eliminate the need for large scale fundraising.

I'd favour something dead simple: no more political contributions, either personal or or corporate. Instead every candidate is handed the same amount of money that they can use to fund a campaign.

If every candidate, from Liberals, to Greens, to CPC-MLs, has the same budget, then the playing field is level, and hopefully people will judge candidates on their policies and character, not based on advertising, TV spots, name recognition, or gigantic forests of lawn signs.

The current system does nothing more than reward the candidates who are already most successful at raising money. That's hardly anything that will upset the status quo.