Political Party Subsidies

Posted: June 7, 2011 in politics

Now that the Consevatives have their majority, they are moving extra quickly to enact one of their proposals, the elimination of the $2 per vote party subsidy.  As part of election fund raising reform, to try to eliminate unfair corporate support for parties, PM Chretien introduced restrictions on fund raising and introduced the subsidy to try to even the playing field.  Harper is looking to eliminate that subsidy.

On first look, this appears to be a good idea.  Why should Canadian taxpayers provide money to political parties?  Should parties not have to depend on their own resourcefulness when raising money for elections?  Would that not be more fair?

In my opinion, that is not the case.  Should the part which can muster the most money from it’s affluent voters have that advantage?  Are the interests of the sector of Canadian society most able to provide political donation necessarily the best interests of the country?  I can’t see that they are.  True, there are rules preventing unions and corporations from making contributions, and the limit on individual donations is
$1 100, but it doesn’t take a genius to see how various interests can partition money through a number of channels in order to make their contributions.  The facets of Canadian society with the money also has the resources to get it to its desired destination.

I am certain that the Conservatives would say that this is as it should be.  The elements of Canadian society which are the most successful should be free to support the policies and government which best serves its interests.  However, we’ve seen that the interested of large corporations and financial institutions (and their individual supporters) are not always in the interests of the greater good.  They are very successful at meeting their own needs and generating profits, but often at the expense of the public.  Note the role of financial institutions in the 2008 recession and the role of countless corporations in exploiting resources, the environment and innocent individuals.  Big business is not egalitarian; it is definitely self-absorbed and self-interested.  Commanding such extensive resources, financial and otherwise, produces the obvious risk that it these interests will have a overbearing influence on government.  We all know that they actually do, but that doesn’t mean that we should make it easy for them.

The subsidy was an attempt to compensate for this risk.  If people don’t want the subsidy, fine.  Maybe it is not the best way to achieve the more level playing field.  Maybe there should be a cap on all election fund raising and spending.  Do we really need election signs on every corner?  Do we really need countless TV and radio ads that attack the opposition in bad taste?  Should we not find a way to refocus campaigns on facts and issues?  And would this not be accomplished by restricting the resources so they cannot be squandered on spin and bling.

If we are going to fix the system, let’s be certain we do not “fix” it in a way that further skews the system unfairly towards one ideology or another.

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