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Thursday, November 27, 2008

two comments on jim flaherty's "economic update."

A lot has been said in the past 24 hours about the economic update proposal to cancel the public funding of political parties, so I won't take up space repeating arguments that have already been articulated. I will, however, offer two comments:

1) I believe that Canada should strive towards political parties being funded by citizens alone. I believe that there should be a reasonable limit to contribution amounts and that both corporations and unions should not be allowed to fund our political parties ('Joe's Oil-Rig' is not citizen, but a legal entity created for tax purposes, therefore it should not be in a position to fund political parties). The sustainability of modern political parties should depend on the cultivation of a large membership and individual donor base to fund itself (a major weakness of the Liberal Party of Canada).

2) It is very clear that Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's proposal is a purely political maneuver aimed at choking off the already cash-strapped Liberal Party (who should be taking advantage of this opportunity to rally their supporters and fundraise). At a time when Stephen Harper's Conservatives should be governing, they are busy playing political games with Canadians tax-dollars.

If Parliament wishes to cancel public financing of political parties, then that is the will of Parliament, but it would be much more equitable for this program to be phased it out over a four year period so that by the time the next "scheduled" election rolls around (is anyone still pretending that we have fixed election dates in Canada?), all of the parties will have completely received the round of $1.95 per-vote funding that Canadians granted them with their votes in the October 2008 Federal Election.

Canadians (myself included) may not have much sympathy for political parties, but Flaherty's move smacks of the worst kind of partisanship that drives so many Canadian citizens away from political involvement.

UPDATE: November 28, 2008 10:02 am- Conservatives won't include party funding cuts in economic update, Jean Chretien & Ed Broadbent broker possible coalition talks, and je ne comprends pas anglais.

UPDATE: November 28, 2008 12:13 pm - What's going on? Cuts to Party Subsidies will Stay: Flaherty


Mark Francis said...


Please don't forget that the so-called "private" system of donations is in fact heavily subsidized by taxpayers through a tax credit system which refunds, at worst, 50% of the donation back to the taxpayers. This is the system which the Conservative Party is designed around exploiting, more than any other party, which is why they are not touching it.

I do not favour political parties being funded by citizens alone. That favours political parties backed by monied individuals.

Anonymous said...

Must be a Blue Moon. I read a Daveberta post and agreed with pretty much all of it. Maybe I should check my temperature.

Seriously, when you're not taking cheapshots at Stelmach & co, you make some good points.

bluegreenblogger said...

Yes and no. First off, as an experienced campaign manager, and organiser I have to say that money is enormously important. Over an entire population, those parties which tend to represent wealthier potential donors will receive more, and larger donations. This is a well demonstrated fact. Most canadians simply couldn't afford to shell out the maximum contribution, but people paying the maximum tax rate would have a lot to gain from tossing 1% of their annual income to the Party which promised a flat tax for example. Without discussing the merits of progressive taxes, I wouldn't want to live in a country where that, or any debate was settled by the deepest pockets.
I am not a Liberal, nor a Chretien supporter, but I personally believe that the 2004 electoral finances act was very important, and a very good start. The ultimate would be a world where the policy prescriptions of the respective parties were what determined elections, not the war chest of the respective parties.
Money isn't the only thing in Candian electoral politics, but it is the biggest single thing, so reducing the influence of political financiers is a big step towards elections as a clash of ideas, decided by the electorate, on an even playing field.
On a more practical level, your' comment about the major weakness of the Liberal Party was off target. The Liberals have huge membership that dwarfs all the other parties, but control over, and access to the lists are controlled at local levels. This means that the type of centralised, and sophisticated fundraising appeals that the CPC run are not possible under the current Liberal Party constitution.

Socially Active said...

Harper is a radical conservative. Which leaves him helpless to fascist influences. Harper's handling of democracy feels like the early rise of fascism.

Sadly a lot more people support Fascism and the hateful propaganda on which it is based than we like to admit.

Fascism is corruption based on lies which start out as half truths and grow into deceit necessary to the gain and maintain power to protect against mythical enemies both within and outside the state. Worst still concentrated conservative media feels a patriotic duty to protect the naive public. Lies are not exposed but added on to, until fascism is embraced and suppresses resisters as internal enemies.

Removing campaign funding combined with Harpers abuse of election spending rules will destroy the ability of political parties to compete fairly. And destroy our democracy and replace it with a system buying votes. Sensible political interests which attract the majority of common people will not win, but rather political interest which make the rich richer will win. If anything the current system does not reward sensible political interests which attract the majority of common people enough.

This is a path to economic and political corruption and national destruction.

HOW MUCH has the private sale of the 407 cost the public through increased travel cost either directly or over crowding the 401?

Robert Vollman said...

The worst kind of partisanship? Really? It doesn't strike you as business-as-usual, garden variety partisanship?

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rc said...

"The worst kind of partisanship? Really? It doesn't strike you as business-as-usual, garden variety partisanship?"

There's a difference? One in the same to me.

I'm with Dave in that I have little use (nor a whole lotta love) for political parties. But I can also agree with Mark Francis' comment, above;

"I do not favour political parties being funded by citizens alone. That favours political parties backed by monied individuals."

Of course, the personal donation limits are supposed to nix that. Still, in this day and age, who but someone with cash to burn could donate the maximum to a political party?

How about lowering the limit to $200? That would be fun. ;)

Oh, and Dave, on your first point -- weren't corporate and union donations to federal parties banned under Bill C-24? I thought they were - and that was why the Liberals were in a financial hole, as corporate donations was where they used to get the largest share of their cash.

SD said...

There are a number of factors at play here that have me torn about whether or not I agree with this move.

1. The Government is going to have to make some serious cuts, there is no reason political parties should be exempt.

2. I'm not certain it is fair to have taxpayers subsidize parties based on votes when this means a substantial portion of the population who didn't vote are being forced to contribute. There are a number of situations where this is perfectly fine, but subsidizing parties is not on that list.

3. The timeline will make it difficult for any of the parties to adapt, the CPC included. (Although the need for cutbacks is now, not five years from now).

4. I don't like political systems that are overrun by parties and this type of a subsidy encourages that. I believe that a party should be national, broad-based, and competitive. I wish more Canadians would take an active role in shaping our truly national parties rather than getting frustrated about a single, or small set, of issues and dumping their vote elsewhere.

5. This will undoubtedly be portrayed as a partisan attack on the Liberals and the BQ who have been unable to generate an effective fundraising mechanism in the four years.

Lastly, elections should be about ideas and not who has the most money. In a competitive system this would encourage that sentiment. Unfortunately, we don't have a competitive system for the reasons outlined in point 5. It will likely mean we will hear proportionately more from the CPC than the other parties.

That being said, Canadians won't likely react positively to a change in government or another election based primarily on a cutback in partisan subsidies. The economic update contained substantial moves to help seniors which will complement the tax measures put in place last year. I think Mr. Dion, Mr. Layton, and Mr. Duceppe need to grow up and start suggesting improvements rather than crying about foul play.

SD said...

The CBC doesn't understand what is going on...

The Ways and Means Bill on Monday was not intended to include all of the measures that were introduced in the Economic Update. They will come in a separate bill in the coming weeks. Or so I've been told...

roblaw said...

Dave - for a Liberal, you're not far off target. The Harper move was a lame, political ploy that should never have been tried in this time of financial stress on the country.. I am not proud, nor approving, of that kind of gameplaying when, particularly with a minority government, he should be forging solidarity where possible with opposition parties to secure confidence in the Canadian economy.

..oh, but I just HAVE to comment on the "fascist" conservative comment.. as it always betrays the massive ignorance of the speaker.

Go google "fascism". Then read about Mussollini and Hitler. Once you have read about how fascism had it's roots in socialism.. then perhaps you will prevent embarassing yourself again by making the same, lame, liberal comparison of conservatives to fascists.

Anonymous said...

Most people correct or not, are refering to fascism as a colloquialism for strong arm tactics to mussle opposition and it is often confused with dictatorship.

You are correct roblaw, but I will clarify for you what they actually mean. They feel that Stephen Harper is scheming, not like Hitler or Stalin, but like Augusto Pinochet, who as we know was an extreme right wing dictator. And we all know what he did to his opposition.

We should be wary of Stephen Harper and what he might do to our democracy, his actions this week show what he is capable of while handcuffed by a minority government. God help us if he gets a majority, then there will be no one to stop him.

roblaw said...

..yes, and Trudeau's NEP, Wage and Price Controls.. war measures.. culminating with giving the finger to western Canada were all the acts of the savior of democracy..

Honestly, if we can't get past the tribalist political ignorance in this country, we're truly in deep trouble..

Harper has enough problems, that can be fairly stated, without resort to the typical desperate "warning of the appocolypse" that those to the slight right of the political spectrum have been putting up with..

Promise you what.. I'll stop warning people of Bob Rae as the next Che Guevera, if you stop suggesting Harper is the next Pinochet.. and we can talk about what the slightly right and the slightly left can maybe agree on.

Madtory said...

True roblaw, facsist is out of line and over the top. But, vindictive, mean-sprited are not. I want someone as leader of the Conservative party who more reasonable and responsible with regards to the adjectives I have listed above. Harper is the sole reason a coalition is now on the horizon. Get a grip, he should have won in a landslide last month, he had no viable opposition. Lets get our heads out of the sand, we need a new leader soon.

Anonymous said...

Wow more hypocrasy, lies, dirty tricks and deceit everyday from the PMO. Nothing has really changed, its just that the he's distracted now and can't put the energy into diguising it as well as he has been.