Thursday, November 27, 2008

Flaherty Fiddles While the Economy Burns

Unbelievable. Our economy is going down in flames, our manufacturing industry is at death's door, tens of thousands of people are facing unemployment - largely in Jim Flaherty's own riding - and THIS is what our finance minister has for us?
Tories expected to slash party funding

Symbolic cuts to politicians' perks, temporary relief for pension plans and a political grenade – ending the $30 million public subsidy to parties – are expected highlights of Thursday's federal economic statement.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will ask the five political parties to give up the $1.95-per-vote subsidy they get to pay for staff and expenses.

...Stephen Harper's Conservatives, who won the most votes, stand to lose $10 million.

But proportional to revenues raised last year, the taxpayer subsidy represents 37 per cent of the totals raised by the Tories.

That's far less than the 63 per cent chop for Liberal coffers, 86 per cent for the Bloc and 57 per cent for the NDP. The Greens stand to lose 65 per cent of total revenues.

This is such an obvious, cynical ploy to screw the opposition parties and gain permanent political advantage that even Stephen Taylor cannot restrain himself from gloating. And yet, the Conservatives are painting this as 'an austerity measure'; 'leading by example'; 'tightening our belts' - despite the fact that none of this would come into effect for at least a year anyway, by which time the current financial crisis will be well past the point where a lousy $27 million will have the slightest effect.

Just for the record, here are five reasons why public funding of political parties is a good idea:

- Chretien brought this in for the same reason he brought in the donation limits: to reduce the influence of money in politics. That's a good thing.

- Public funding takes the pressure off MPs and parties from having to spend all their time begging for cash and puts more emphasis on their performance.

- It adds an element of proportionality to the system, allowing smaller parties like the Green Party to participate more fully than they would otherwise be able to.

- It encourages people to vote by making sure that their vote counts for something even if their chosen candidate has no chance of winning.

- As Mark Francis pointed out, the government already subsidizes political donations to the tune of 75% for donations up to $400, and 50% for someone donating the $1275 maximum would get half their money back (how much does that cost?). But that's only if they could afford to donate that much, and only if they actually made enough money to get this non-refundable credit back. Therefore, relying on donations only gives advantage to parties that appeal to the wealthy. Public funding, on the other hand, allows all voters regardless of income to financially support their party of choice simply by voting for them.

In any case, electoral reform is a debate for another day. Right now, all of the opposition parties must demand that this item be removed from the economic statement. If it is not, they must vote against it and consider approaching the Governor General about forming a new government.

If this is allowed to stand, there will be no end to it.

1 comment:

  1. Having written quite a bit about the Conservative attacks and distain for democracy in the last two years, and of the opinion that they will do anything to stay in power with total disregard to laws, rules or tradition, even I did not see this one coming. This is (to me) is one of those fundamental basics that helps to ensure that opposing points of view and alternate political partys (particularly up and coming ones such as the Greens) have sufficient funding to have a reasonable chance of presenting their views to the public. Given the Harper regimes history of buying votes with the now defunct surplus that we now need and the millions of partisan 10%ers sent out just prior to calling that “conveniently early” election, I should have expected another attack upon our democratic processes. This has nothing to do with saving money, $2 per voter, as one blogger said lets donate ten time that to other partys to get these crooks out. Time for bloggers to jump on this one, we can make enough noise to be heard.