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Here we go again…

August 17, 2009

I had thought that last fall’s disastrous attempt by the conservatives to remove public financing of federal political parties would have taught them not to touch this rail again.  But they’ve been mumbling about it again and apparently some pundits think it should be axed.  Mr. Flanagan over at the G&M says that Canadians supported removing the funding, which comes to parties based on the number of votes in the past election, I and others would beg to differ about that.

Canadians don’t want to see an American style campaign system where ever-increasing amounts of cash are needed to keep pace and marketing becomes the main aspect of campaigning instead of reasoned debate and clear policies.  Mr. Flanagan again:

One of the things wrong with the allowance system is that it encourages parties to coast on past performance, because the allowance is determined by the number of votes gathered in the most recent election.

Isn’t that called democracy?  Doesn’t the winning party from the last election “coast on past performance” by running the government?  Funding is based only on the most recent election which is the only basis for legitimacy in a democracy, so why shouldn’t funding be based on that as well?  Anyone who thinks this argument makes sense  doesn’t understand the idea of a mandate.

… the goal should be to make it easier for parties to raise money for themselves.What is needed are incentives for parties to keep in contact with their supporters – to ask for money, to be sure, but also to keep people informed. Making appeals more lucrative, or instituting a taxpayer check-off system, would reinforce incentives for parties to find out who their supporters are and to keep in touch with them.

Well, that’s very nice, if everyone in Canada was politically active and donated to parties, and everyone had disposable income, then we could have a system where each legitimate voice in the country funds it own party and we’d all be happy.  But this is a deliberate illusion created by those who have power and money to try to look reasonable.  The fact is that most, almost all, Canadians don’t belong to a political party and never contribute political donations to a party.  Adding a tick box on the tax forms wouldn’t change that.  If public funding is removed then the parties with the most money will be the ones with the right kind of supporters who have money and choose to give it to politicians.  Its fundamentally unfair because being the ‘right kind of supporter’ isn’t under your control as it is largely based on income. To call this approach fair just because everyone technically has an equal opportunity to donate is dishonest.

We need to look at the way Canadians actually behave and the true diversity of opinion , income and political participation in Canada. When we look at that, the only sensible, fair answer is to fund all parties based on how many votes they get using the public purse and ensure that no party can raise too much money independent of that.  This is exactly the system we currently have.

If you care about having every voice represented, which is what democracy is all about, then you can’t be again public funding of political parties.

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