Kill the subsidy, but kill them all -

Kill the subsidy, but kill them all

Andrew Coyne on how political parties should be funded

Kill the subsidy, but kill them all

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

With the impending heat death of the Liberal party—er, rather, with the approaching end of the $2-per-vote party subsidy—the commentariat is consumed with what this will mean for the various political parties, and what Stephen Harper’s motives might be for introducing it.

Well, that last bit’s obvious, isn’t it? He wants to destroy the Liberal party. Everybody knows that. But wait: maybe by obliging the opposition parties to rely more heavily on their own supporters for funds, rather than the taxpayer, he will only create a more motivated cadre of foes, while his own troops grow fat and complacent in office. Or maybe by starving the opposition of funds, he will force them to realize there is only room for one left-wing party, hastening the very unite-the-left movement that could one day be his undoing. But how could such a master strategist not see that? Maybe he wants a united left, the better to…

People. Isn’t it possible, just possible, that he’s doing this because…it’s the right thing to do?

Nah. I was just messing with you. Still, even if it’s supremely self-interested—the Conservatives raise more each year than all the other parties combined—that doesn’t mean it isn’t sound in principle. The Tories’ success isn’t a matter of a few monocled millionaires passing the top hat: their average donor gives less than $200. A system based on thousands of small contributors, inspired by a belief in a party’s principles rather than the expectation of some reward: that’s supposed to be what we all want, isn’t it? So how does it become wrong, just because the Tories are good at it and the other parties aren’t?

Abolishing the subsidy isn’t, as critics on the left object, a betrayal of Jean Chrétien’s reforms to party funding, which effectively banned corporations and unions from contributing and capped individual donations at $5,000 (reduced to $1,000 under Harper, or $1,100 after inflation). Neither, as the right suggests, should the corollary of abolishing the subsidy be a loosening of the other constraints. Certainly that would give substance to the left’s fears, that without the subsidy there will be pressure for a return to “big money” politics. But there’s no logical necessity for the one to follow the other.

Both groups share the same basic assumption: that if the parties are denied one source of largesse, private or public, the other must be opened to them. The possibility that the parties could simply make do with less does not seem to occur to either. But there is no fixed amount of money the parties “need” to carry out their activities. Much of what the parties spend their money on today—push-polls, attack ads, meaningless leaders’ tours—we might all be better off without, especially in these days of email and social media, which cost nothing.

Logic would rather suggest the natural corollary to a ban on corporate and union donations is a ban on government donations. Indeed, if the Prime Minister were motivated by principle—remember, I said if—he’d not only close off the per-vote subsidy, but those other spigots through which public funds flow to private parties: the tax credits on private donations, as much as 75 per cent, and the partial reimbursement of campaign expenses.

The principle I refer to is that people who want to give to political parties should do so with their own money. Corporate CEOs should not be giving their shareholders’ money, union presidents should not be giving their members’ money, and individual party supporters should not be giving the taxpayers’ money, whether in the form of subsidies or tax credits.

If only individuals contribute, do we still need contribution limits? Yes: money may not buy elections, but it can certainly buy a party or two. If everyone had the same level of income, we wouldn’t worry about the rich having disproportionate influence over political decisions. The closest real-world approximation to that is to cap, not each contribution—for these can be multiplied and channelled through any number of like-minded recipients: parties, candidates, ostensibly non-partisan “advocacy” groups like the Liberal-friendly Working Families Coalition in Ontario—but rather the total amount an individual can contribute to political causes in a year: a global annual contribution limit of, say, $5,000.

The beauty of this scheme is that, within the cap, it’s self-limiting: the more you give to one party, candidate or cause of your choice, the less you have left to give to all the others. Having stipulated that parties (and advocacy groups, so far as they campaigned for or against a party or candidate) could spend only what they raised from individuals constrained in this way, moreover, there would be no reason to impose any further limits on spending. Indeed, spending caps discriminate against contributors to parties with larger numbers of supporters. Each, as an individual, is permitted less “voice” than the supporters of less popular parties.

The fairness that should concern us, that is, is not between parties, but individuals: parties are simply the lens through which individuals project their views onto the political arena, and not even necessarily the best one at that. By putting every individual donor under the same global ceiling, and letting each decide how to divide up his allotment in his own way, it puts not only donors on a (roughly) level footing, but also their potential recipients. In a system based on “one person, one vote,” that seems altogether fitting.


Kill the subsidy, but kill them all

  1. Exactly what I want to see, except with a much, much lower cap (say $500 instead of $5000).  Or $50.  The lower you go, the more equitable it becomes across all income ranges.

    • :-) like, two dollars a vote?

      • Tee-hee.  And here I was trying to be stealthy.

        • And even better if it doesn’t come out of ‘our’ pocket. . .

          • “Our” pocket? I don’t understand. If you didn’t vote for them, it didn’t come out of your pocket. 

            Potholes, sewers, roads, armies, and first strike, single engine stealth fighter jets we don’t need come out of ‘our’ pockets. I assume you’re then opposed to all tax funded expenditures?

          • I guess you don’t understand. The subsidy is paid out of taxpayer funds. If I don’t vote at all, others are dictating how those funds flow. Hence ‘our’.

            I guess you are being silly with your next comment. It is obvious that everything that the gov’t pays for comes out of ‘our’ pocket – the debate starts when we start deciding what to fund. Why even suggest that someone is opposed to all tax funded expenditures – that’s just silly.

          • Those who don’t vote, don’t count – you know that. I’d bet the vast majority of tax payers vote. The per vote sub isn’t perfect, but discounting few non taxpayers who get a whole two bucks paid out of someone elses pocket, and taking into account the donor credit, which is far less progressive in terms of whose pocket it picks, i’d say it’s you who doesn’t understand. Question is are you as deliberately, purposefully ignorant as our PM? 
            Don’t you think it’s somewhat politically suspect that the debate on what we should decide to fund in our new parliament conveniently starts with a cut that hurts the opposition parties the most?

          • You are proving my point – those who don’t vote have someone else dictate how the taxpayer money is spent. Not fair.
            The per vote subsidy isn’t perfect, and it isn’t even needed.
            Voter turnout: 14,720,580 of 23,971,740 registered electors (61.4%)
            I would say by these numbers that quite a few taxpayers didn’t vote. Keep in mind that this is only the percentage of registered voters who voted. I would submit that the majority of Canadians don’t care/follow politics. It isn’t fair that we who vote spend their money to fund the party we support.
            As far as politically suspect, I could care less. Any party that can help the government spend less is good to me. If the next gov’t is Liberal and proposes a policy that would hurt their opposition, while keeping more money in the gov’t pocket, I will support it.
            I would argue that the people who support it do so based on political leanings. If it helped the party that they supported, they would support it. I, personally, support it, as it keeps more money in gov’t coffers.

          • One of which just happens to be the party that instigated this ripoff of taxpayers. There is also the not insignificant matter of those whose income is low enough that they don’t pay taxes but vote having their share paid by the rest of us.

          • Worse than covering their $2 vote subsidy we also pay for their health-care, their burden on the courts, their portion of the Canadian Forces and so on.

          • No, my child, I am not stupid. I understand how the funds flow.
            If you don’t vote others are dictating who governs you.
            Silly? You stated ‘our’.
            “Our” is groupist, communal, statist. You offered the term in argument, in that somehow “we” should have a say over how “our” money is spent. “We” do. “We” elect a government that spends ‘our’ money.
            It is often a term and argument made by people who generally oppose how that money is spent. Forgive me for thinking you were making some kind of Objectivist Libertarian Principled statement.

          • ‘My child’. You flatter me. :)

            No problem. I flirt with Libertarianism, but I realize that the gov’t has to spend on some things. I just feel, in this case, the gov’t should spend nothing.

  2. Seems like a decent idea, although without the tax credit would be hard to enforce. People could go over the individual cap just by leaving envelopes of cash on party doorsteps.

    Also, I think the last election showed that flooding convential airwaves with advertising is still the best way to get your message across. Clever Youtube videos and emails are generally only viewed by those who decide to view them. Money still matters.

  3. It is wonderful that you debunked the myth that people who donate to the Conservative party are making big contributions.  The other thing that I want to point out is that the NDP party is overwhelmingly the party of unions.  Teachers and registered nurses (250+ thousand in Canada) are paid between 60 & 80 thousand a year.  These are not poor people.  They can afford to throw $100 to $200.00 to “their party”.  As for the Liberal party, they are known to have rich supporters and this election, they proved that they can do fund-raising.  The Conservative party is a well-organized.  They have tons of the volunteers who are working the phones and making cold calls, asking for financial support.  Supporters for the other parties who feel that can’t afford to make a financial donation, could do a voluntary job like that.  As for getting rid of the 75% tax credit, it would definitely be painful for the parties but the Conservatives would still come out better than the other two.
    My last comment is about using the internet instead of TV ads.  My parents are 84.  They don’t use the internet.  My husband is 50.  He doesn’t use the internet.  Not everybody is online, especially older people but pretty much everyone has a television.

    • Lol.  They don’t have volunteers making cold calls.  They pay their fundraisers with taxpayer subsidized money.  This is the major barrier to entry to new political parties – they need to invest in complex fund-raising outfits or outsource them to call centers.

      I know – I am one of these fund raisers.

      • Isn’t it true that a lot of charities also out source their fund raising to agencies such as the one you work for?

        •  Very true.  The center I work at actually fund raises for a few charities.

    • Where does you husband live? :)
      Most of your points are well taken.  However, the following quote from Coyne:
      “The Tories’ success isn’t a matter of a few monocled millionaires passing the top hat: their average donor gives less than $200.”
      suggests that perhaps there are a lot of $10 donors as well as $1000 donors.  I recently looked at the donations made to the mayor of Vancouver’s election where there doesn’t seem to be any set limitations, and he had many, many donations made by individuals and corporations (which is allowed) of $5,000 to $10,000 each.  I suspect that the federal Conservatives also received a lot of “anonymous” donations into the pockets of individual members that wasn’t reported.  You should always remember that politicians are at the bottom, the very bottom, of trustworthy occupations.  And there is a reson for that!

  4. If everyone had the same level of income, we wouldn’t worry about the rich having disproportionate influence over political decisions.

    Let’s say, parties get funding based solely on how many votes they receive? Individual, or corporate income, wealth or poverty isn’t even a issue.  Doesn’t this absolutely pave the playing field?

    By putting every individual donor under the same global ceiling, and letting …

    … say, two dollars a vote…

    each decide how to divide up his allotment in his own way,

    Say, each two dollars is directed toward the party the individual voted for? …

    it puts not only donors on a (roughly) level footing, but also their potential recipients. In a system based on “one person, one vote,” that seems altogether fitting.

    So we agree….

    • Love it!

      I’d say kill off all other options for support and leave just the subsidy, except that doing so would make it inordinately hard for new parties to form.

      • Yes. Totally. It seems like a big problem. I don’t have an answer for that. Lack of subsidy hasn’t stopped the Marxist-Leninists or Freedom Party from forming.

        I’d propose, that since it’s a national program, in order to receive it, parties need to run, say, at least 300 candidates across the country, and tie it into some received votes percentage of the popular vote. ?

        • I don’t think anyone’s suggesting ending  party fundraising. Perhaps more generous donor credits could apply to a new party, until they reach that per vote threshold?

          • I really don’t know how to balance that. I was just amused that a few of Andrew Coyne’s arguments could as easily justify the subsidy as argue against it. It’ll be difficult to divorce political parties from power and money. The per vote subsidy is a good start.

          • Hmmm, i see your point. But i have to disagree anyways. I’m in favour or reducing political subs to the parties, if only because it may mean they might get back to only shoving their purile AA’s down our throats during the election. However just because it may be the least contentious, or easiest place to start cutting, doesn’t make it the right place.
            What seems to have happened to Mende’s argument that cutting this sub will likely bring about a reference to the SC, as he deems it[ presumeably not just him, but other constitutional experts] a constitutional matter? 

      • You could address the problem for new parties by capping donations from individuals to some relatively low threshold, say $250,000 – $1,000,000 per year. Perhaps phase out that allowance for parties once they receive a sufficient per-vote subsidy.

    • Of course, if I vote for an independent, then… where does my $2 go? Or the Communist Party of Canada, that doesn’t reach a threshold to get my $2?

      The current subsidy forces ALL voters to support ALL the parties that meet Elections Canada’s thresholds.

      • If you vote for an Independent, they get your two dollars, but I think the qualification for this subsidy should be 300 candidates.

        Your problem seems to be with income redistribution rather than the electoral process.

        The current income tax rebate forces all taxpayers to subsidize those who donate to political parties, even if they did not choose to participate in the process. The subsidy directs funds from voters – who chose to participate in the process.

        • Yes Doug, but if you don’t want to participate in the vote subsidy what can you do, not vote?  That choice is not really acceptable to those of us who take our responsiblity in democratic process seriously.

          • C’mon. We’re talking about a twoonie. My town does lots things with some of my property taxes that i may not like – it’s just the way the system works. Why should you have an out? How bout a pacifist who’s forced to shell out for those over priced f35s? Short of doing a little bit more of what i understand the US does – indicate on your tax return where you’d like some of your taxes go to or not  – what else can we realistically do? Personally i’d rather not go there.[ or perhaps we should all get one thing that really bugs us that we can tick off the list, but only one?] I don’t at all support the libertarian trend to complaining about where your tax dollars go – somehow it invariably involves cutting only those servces/programmes that don’t impinge on that particular taxpayer.

          • For one thing the voter subsidy did not even exist prior to Mr. Chretien so taking it away is not the end of the world.  As for the fighter jets.  F18 hornets already are being flown by Canadian military pilots.  They are 30 years old and will have to be replaced for safety sake.  Whether you agree or not, the party that got in with the same percentage of the popular vote that Mr. Chretien got in with 1997 is deciding to get rid of the voter subsidy.

          • So, you’d be down with the next government bringing it back?

            Most countries have some public support for political parties. Not everyone has to agree with it. I don’t agree with giving people a tax credit for their green fees, but Harper intends to do that when the budget is balanced, rather than repay some of the $150-$200 billion he has borrowed during his tenure.

          • Andrew, I don’t agree with the vote subsidy but I would accept if the next govt brought it back because that would be their perogative as a majority govt.

          • Your justifications for the fighter planes are as irrelevant as someone else’s justifications for the per-vote subsidy.  If the critieria on which we’re basing whether we should pay something or not is whether someone  “wants to participate in funding it” then the person who doesn’t want to participate in funding the political parties has just as much a leg to stand on as the person who doesn’t want to participate in funding the military.

          • Canada has had a military since WWI. I am not arguing that the F35 is the best choice of fighter jets, I am just saying that if we are going to keep our military we are going to have to outfit them in safe equipment.  Frankly, if the govt of the day decided to phase out the military, I would be okay with that too.

          • Except it’s not *about* that. You argued “If you don’t want to participate in the vote subsidy, what would you do, not vote?” the answer is, participating in the vote subsidy is not optional, just like participating in funding the military is not optional. If you’re going to argue that one doesn’t have the option to avoid paying, then you must be open to the arguments that people should have the option to avoid any of them.

          • Yes Thwim, you are so right…except I am not the one that argued that we had a say…I believe that was Doug Rogers who suggested that if we didn’t like the subsidy we could just not vote. I said that was not an option.  I maintain that the (majority) govt. of the day makes the decisions where the tax dollars go.  If they want a subsidy for political parties, that is what we get.  If they want new fighter jets, that is what we get.  Other bloggers have suggested that I am in favour of spending tax money on certain things that I actually feel ambivalent about.  I have never sugggested that I thought we should get to direct our taxes. 

          • where did I say that?

          • When you said “the subsidy directs funds from voters – who chose to participate in the process.  Then I said…the only choice to not “participate” is not vote, which in my opinion is untenable and therefore, no choice at all. 

          • Uhm… No

            Sent from my iPod

          • If you don’t want to participate in paved roads, what are you going to do? If you don’t want to participate in universal healthcare, what are you going to do? If you don’t want o fund an army, what are you going to do? Whine about spending two dollars seems to be the only option. Go buy a cup of coffee.

        • Doug, is this a different Doug Rogers?  Did you not blog this????

          • Well, no,I did not ‘blog’ that. I posted it as a comment in a Macleans discussion forum.

            And, Yes, I can see how you could infer that as my meaning, but it was not my meaning to say that I thought a voter could avoid participating in the subsidy by not voting.

  5. I don’t see what the fuss is about the $/vote arrangement.  It is very democratic.  It is very efficient.  It is calculated on the basis of actual votes, not an average over the total population.  It stops annoying cold calls from party X, Y, &/or Z haranguing you for cash.  At proper levels, it could completely eliminate even the slightest wiff of buying influence with politicians.  Corporations should really love it because it eliminates a line item expense on the balance sheet.  

    So, the objection doesn’t seem to be based on fully rational grounds, because it isn’t as if there are no positives to the $’s/vote arrangement (did you notice how I didn’t say “subsidy”?).  

    • Influence peddling can still happen where politicians, their families, their aides, etc. later get cushy jobs in the private sector, say on the board of a major corporation, or chairing a think-tank or lobby-group.

      It’s very hard to eliminate entirely.

      I like that the per-vote subsidy reduces the influence of zealots and ideologues, who disproportionately make up the body of political donors.

      • When the average person donating is giving less than $200.00…that is a whole lot of zeolots and idealogues……

        • The median Canadian gives zero. From what I know, there are only one hundred thousand or so donors out of a country of 34 million, so donors are the exception. They tend to be disproportionately zealous about partisan politics and political ideology.

          And saying that people should pay for influence in their democracy seems counterproductive. If every eligble elector gave $200 to a party, there would be $4 billion flowing to political parties a year. Does anyone think it’d be a good thing for parties to have that much cash at their disposal?

          • You are on the right track wrt numbers of participants….I believe that the actual numbers are about 250,000 donors at an up front donation average of about $100, which then commits the taxpayers to provide refunds totaling about $20 million per year.

          • My guess is that the median Canadian gives zero to the Canadian Cancer Society as well.  How much do you think the median Canadian donates to the local food bank?

        • I hate to tell you, actually, that most of the people I know who would think you’re crazy for giving $200 to a political party of all things. Most people have very low opinions of politics, parties and politicians, and hate voting for them enough, much less giving them money. People would rather spend that money on themselves (evidence that 99% of Canadians do not donate) or on actual charity.

          • I never said I gave $200.00.  I think I mentioned $100.00.  However, I did also say, I give generously to the Cancer Society and other charities.  I also canvas door to door for charities yearly. I am a fiscal conservative but definitely a social liberal.  Given that I am a psychiatric nurse, I will give your friends’ assessment of my “craziness” due consideration.

  6. The majority of political donations comes from the Corporate level, not the individual level.  If you pack your election promises with sweet talk for corporations, you will get the cash.

    The reverse is most of the votes come from Individuals, not corporations and these individuals do not donate nearly as much as the corporations.

    The Conservatives want the big bucks so they are pushing to do away with the universal funding.

    Mind you in the Conservative world Universal anything is just a thing to target and do away with.

    • Really, the corporations should be paying us to vote for who they want.  We could set up a section of e-Bay to vie for their patronage.  It would be much more direct than funneling cash to politicians by paying for their executives to attend $1000/plate fund-raising dinners.

    • Are you serious? Really? How, exactly, do corporations donate? Even if, in you wildest dreams, some CEO decides “his team” will support a particular party, how does that happen with an $1,100 threshold?

      Quit watching US news, bucko.

  7. Nice to see AC finally catch up to a lot of the mac commenters who’ve been arguing for quite some time now that the per vote sub may not be the only sub that skews the system, and may even be the least distorting of the subs.[ ok you didn’t say that yet…but you will eventually. I still have faith in you]

    “A system based on thousands of small contributors, inspired by a belief in a party’s principles rather than the expectation of some reward…”

    Call me a contrarian, but i still want to see some kind of empirical [ at least wieght of evidence or something] evidence that chasing the donor bucks[ even the small donor. Although i agree it is preferable to the big donor] does this. I worry it becomes a case of the tail wagging the dog.[ we are still a representative democracy – not a direct one yet] My evidence you say? Just look at the plethora of fire alarm calls the CPC put out to its core donors…er members during the minority parliament just passed. Who’s really using whom here?[ I note that some principled conservatives have stated that they withdrew their financial support when they were tapped for more funds to smear liberal leaders; kudos to them, but obviously they were not any kind of critical mass. Indeed i’m not sure whether this point lends weight to my argument or yours – that heavy reliance on donors keeps the party honest or merely sets up a kind of closed loop where the party and its core supporters are locked in an ever more narrowing idealogical embrace…i guess you’d just say that’s democracy; nothing’s perfect. live with it!
    Perhaps my real point here is who are the main donors? A broad swath of the conservatively minded electorate [ which is fine] or is it rather a core group of the most idealogically commited?…not my favourite cup of cha. You haven’t persuaded me on that score…not yet anyway. 
    Another beef i have with you is over the per vote sub. I don’t see any evidence that it makes the parties idealogically lazy and complacent. [ i do see your point about them having way too much money] But look at the liberals you say? Still don’t buy it. They’ve been hollowing out for a long time now, it may have contributed, but that’s all. Indeed, why hasn’t the per vote sub rotted out the dippers too? Or even the Tories to some extent.You could make the very same argument you make for relying on individual donors, but in reverse. If you have to chase the votes everywhere in order to fund your party, wouldn’t that be equally an incentive to craft good policy – even find out what the voters or your grass roots want? Sure, you can take their votes for granted…but not for long, if you want to survive.[ maybe the libs did do this. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that’s the fault of the per vote sub] It’s the same imperative for both systems of funding. No, chasing votes as opposed to chasing $ is not inherently wrong. Keep the per vote sub and eviserate the other donor or party subs if we have to; that’s what you would like to see – less money for partisan garbage ,right!

    I like the idea of a yearly indvidual cap and no discriminatory “success cap”. But now i’m puzzled. How can donors get around the $1100 individual cap? And how widely spread is this practise of multiple contributions to various like minded advocasy groups?  It’s the first i’ve heard of it…[no big surprise there]

    • I’ve been called a rabid partisan on this and other boards, but I’ll happily show (privately) my tax return showing I haven’t given dime 1 for the past year or two.

      • If people are willng to cheat to get around the $1,100 limit, I don’t think they’d be unwilling to lie about it on their tax returns.

  8. I’d be interested to see what each of the parties actually did with all of that public money (the ~$26M from the per vote subsidy and the $20M from the tax credit).

    Just a breakdown into 5 to 10 categories, such as polling, communications strategists, advertising, basic public policy research, leadership tours and so on.

    This would be helpful so that the people who will still be paying the a huge portion of the costs to operate political parties (ie the taxpayers) might be able to decide if they are actually getting good value for their money.

  9. One of my own snide comments brought up a serious question (serious to me, anywho).  Does the current $1100/donation limit apply to such events as $1000/plate fundraising dinners and similar fund-raising efforts? Do people get tax refunds for spending cash at such an event? Being averse to splurging for even a $100 meal pour deux at a fancy restaurant leaves me a bit ignorant on this aspect of campaign financing.

    • I haven’t attended any $1000/plate dinners, but I can tell you that if you buy a $1,000 plate dinner, the value received (dinner + venue, eg cost) is deducted before you get a receipt for income tax purposes. I know this because I have attended CPC functions with a $20 tag to cover costs, and another function that was “free” but a bucket was passed with a clear request for “nothing over $20 so as not to counter election finance laws)

  10. Get over it Komarade Coyne your Lieberals lost…………

    • Get a job, punk.

  11. “Logic would rather suggest the natural corollary to a ban on corporate and union donations is a ban on government donations. ”

    What the hell kind of logic is that? “We ban donations from these two types of private entities, obviously we need to ban donations from this public entity” what?

    No, the actual logic is that if we’re banning certain types of private entities from donating, we ban ALL of them. Unions, corporations, and individuals.  The only entity we leave which can donate is the public one, government.

    How much to donate is then ascribed to the vote share the group receives.

    And you know what? Don’t even bother putting any minimums on it.  If you receive one vote, you get $X. 

    • I don’t think you can really make an argument for banning individual donations. But you can certainly make a very good argument for not subsidizing them at all. Otherwise your logic is my logic too. Why is it somehow NOT representative of individual voter choice to have their twonee go to the party of their choice; yet somehow an individual donation is more representative of that donors choice? They’re both representative of choice; one is arguably more of a conscious choice, and one is a hell of a lot more equitable in terms of state subsidy then the other.
      AC has this argument exactly upside down. I know he abhors subsidy of all kinds, but there are distinctions here, whether he likes to admit it or not. 

      • How about lowering the cap for individual donations to $100, eliminating the tax credit, and keeping the per-vote subsidy. I have to admit, turning people against the per-vote subsidy while leaving in place the 75% tax credit for donations was a PR coup. It’s still terrible policy.

        I think I also support eliminating the threshold to receive per-vote subsidies, and giving it to the riding association rather than the national party. Riding associations can choose how much or how little to contribute to the national organization. Independents should also receive the subsidy.

        • Those ideas seem fine to me. Admittedly i have very little understanding how RAs work – but i’m a fan of local control in general.
          Something else i heard that might be an improvement is in the way this is handled in the US. Apparently[ if i have it right] there you indicate the amount you would like to contribute[ say $20] and the govt figures out how much of a contribution will come out of tax payers pockets; simple.
           Hopefully it isn’t too much of a patch work system. IOWs, if the public sub is 50%, your $20 receives a top up of $10] in all jurisdictions.
          Totally agree. The opposition parties have been asleep at the switch on this one. If they’d only ran out a decent pr campaign highlighting the inequities of the donor tax credit, they might have been able to head this off. Sometimes i think they deserve whatever they get – they don’t seem to have the sense to come in out of the rain at times.

          • Sometimes I shout at the TV when I watch Power and Politics and Evan has that dumb look on his face and asks a bunch of questions he already knows the answer to. He’s a smart guy, but he is better scripted. He sounds really dull when hosting a panel like that.

            I will admit that the Conservatives outclass all the other parties at managing public opinion. The Senate is another example. No one asks them how they intend to deal with deadlocks between the newly elected Senate and the House of Commons. When Senators are directly elected, they have the full moral authority to grind government to a halt, worse than any minority House of Commons could.

          • You’re making the assumption that they don’t *want* government deadlocked.

  12. I see no good reason why the taxpayer should subsidize political ambitions in any way. Limit personal contributions to $5000 with no tax break. Ban organizational donation in cash or kind (advertising deals,. free TV time, media space).  Ban national Ads and limit activity to neighbourhood and people to people town campaigns. Perhaps give a shoe leather and lunch allowance.   


  13. In defence of the per-vote-subsidy:

    Imagine the disabled and poor were given no help from government, no political parties supported them,  and as a result of being disabled and poor could not raise funds.

    How do they make a difference without a per-vote subsidy?

    • That is a non sequiter, Nathan.

      •  Oh no, it sequitors quite well.  How can the poor form a party with no donors, unless you expect the well off to donate to the poor peoples party?  The poor can’t donate to the poor.  They have no money.

        However, in the situation of the per-vote-subsidy, the poor are basically at the same level as the rich, minus the fact that the rich may use their own savings to campaign.

        • If they are so poor they don’t pay taxes so they are using some other taxpayers’ money. Fist they get a job then they aren’t poor anymore.

          •  That’s why in my first post I mentioned -disabled-.  If you can’t work, you can’t get a job.  If you can’t get a job, without the per-vote-subsidy, the poor are a non-entity.  A poor man’s vote, and thus his voice – whether he be poor of his own work, or of someone elses – does not count, excepting in close ridings.

          • This argument is almost a ‘straw man’, but I will still talk to it. Firstly, ‘the poor’ are not a homogenous group, with mind think. The parties that exist can represent their interests.

            Secondly, I would imagine that most people don’t want ‘the poor’, to be in a position to unilaterally make laws. They would have a vested interest in taking from those with money, and giving to those without. At on time, in England?, only landowners could vote. It seemed to be a case of ‘the rich’ against ‘the poor’, but you can argue that those who don’t own land don’t have a vested interest. They have nothing to loose, so might care less if a policy was detrimental to the country.

            Basically, the party with the best ideas should garner the most support, and thus the most money.

          • I’m not refering to ‘the poor’ as a homogenous group in reality, I am referring to a hypothetical situation in which a group of for example, disabled people, who lobby for better rights for disabled. 

            Or hell, seniors.  The conservative tax breaks are directed squarely at middle-high income seniors which are the main financial supporters.  What recourse does that leave low-income seniors?  For example, those taken out of work due to illness?  Now that there is no vote subsidy there is no way for them to support their party short of moving to a riding where their party’s candidate is more likely to win.

          • Lobby groups are different than political parties, and I would submit that they get no funding also (different discussion).

            They could also support their party by voting for them, suggesting that other vote for them, offering to donate time, etc. To say that the only way for someone without money (and to be blunt, they could probably give $2.00) to ‘support’ their party is if taxes do it for them is wrong.

          •  I was referring to lobbying from within government – I should’ve been more clear.

            Lets imagine hypothetically it’s the rich party vs the poor party.

            The fact that the poor can support by volunteering doesn’t break the fact that the support levels are skewed.  The rich party can still volunteer, but they’re also donating large sums.  So it’s lots of money, same level of volunteers vs no money, same level of supporters.  What are the volunteers going to do?  No money means no signs, advertisements, or go-to-vote campaigns.

            The only way to make the party funding democratic is the per-vote-subsidy.  The slide from democracy to oligarchy doesn’t have to be large for it to strike policy – look at the tax credits for (relatively) high income seniors.  From my experience as a fundraiser, that is the main conservative support base.

            Hell, if we just levied a fee for those who didn’t show up to vote, as per Australia, we could pay for the per-vote-subsidy via the income from that.

            As is my main beef with Harper – we have to stick to facts.  Ignoring those in favour of ideology is irresponsible, but it’s working so good for Harper!

          • First of all, the only place where: “The only way to make the party funding democratic is the per-vote-subsidy.” could be true, would be in your hypothetical rich party vs poor party scenario. Never gonna happen.
            Rich people are human, and have hearts. They donate to parties such as the NDP, even though that could be argued to be against their own economic interests.

            Secondly, if it came down to a rich (working class) vs poor (unemployed, homeless, senior) party scenario (which is a total hypothetical), the poor party would have an asset (time) in abundance to the people who are busy. They could fundraiser, etc.

            Sure it is an ideological move to get rid of the subsidy, but that doesn’t make it wrong. It also doesn’t mean that there are no ‘facts’ to support it’s removal. If nothing else, we have debt. Get rid of it until the debt is gone. That alone would be a good reason. (unless you are someone who thinks all gov’t spending is good, and should be high).

          • So the poor party has time to put up signs it can’t afford, call people who can’t afford to donate, sit in the tour bus the can’t afford to drive, while a wealthy man takes a leave of absense and has his manager step in so he can run the election campaign and put up a massive sign. :P

            The issue I am saying is that at the current time, I am certain you agree, a man with 2 dollars and a man with 2 million dollars have a different amount of influence on their party.  -Elitism

            If both contribute only 2 dollars through taxes, both people’s views count for the same. -Populism

            Why did I use these terms?  They are the terms I was given to describe a situation as my job as a conservative fundraiser.  The conservative view is, screw the poor, we support the rich!

            Anyone who believes all government spending is good is insane, or Harper, given the insane spending that he has been doing.  As well, I agree, there are no facts to support the removal of the subsidy. :P

            The issue I had with it being ideological is that it is not.  It’s paiting a political move with an ideological brush.  The move targeted the opposition by hitting their support while leaving the subsidies that helped them intact.  I was mostly making a joke on that last statement as well. :P

          • Don’t be too certain. The max that someone can donate is $1100, ‘the rich’ (here we go again) are limited. Someone earning 40,000/yr can exert the same influence as someone earning $10,000,000/yr.
            Please give me the name of the CPC person you are quoting with the ‘screw the poor’ comment. Didn’t think so.
            You seem to be ‘agreeing’ with something that I didn’t say. I never said that there were no facts to support the removal of the subsidy, so how can you ‘agree’ with that.
            You can think that the removal is not an ideological move, but Harper has been on the record, long before being elected, as being opposed to it, for ideological reasons. AS far as it ‘hurting’ the opposition the most, the CPC will be the hardest hit by it’s removal. That alone should make someone like you happy.

            Lastly, how does someone who ‘earns’ $2/yr (and therefore pays no taxes) ‘contribute’ $2 of his taxes. Ahh, he contributes the $2 that someone else paid in taxes. There is a difference.

          • “Basically, the party with the best ideas should garner the most support, and thus the most money”

            Good luck with that.  Unless you tie funding exclusively to voter susupport, the only party you’re going to see elected is the one that will do the most for the people who can afford to donate.

          • Please define ‘afford to donate’? I would submit that there are very, very few in Canada, who, if so inclined, could not spare something for the party that they support. It is easier, though, if it doesn’t come directly out of their pocket???
            Heck, if the parties actually got good at it, they could raise lots more money. They could have people donate their ‘points’ (airmiles, etc), bottles, and many other things.
            This debate boils down to whether people want to support the party with their own money, or would rather have tax money do it for them.
            Again, if someone really supported a party, they could do a lot.

          • ‘This debate boils down to whether people want to support the party with their own money, or would rather have tax money do it for them”.

            Sorry but a lot of cons are being completely disingenous in this case.
            Let’s say i contrbute $1000 to my favourite party. I presume from your quoted words that you are now outraged to find out that up to $750 of that is coming involuntarily, in part out of your, and your fellow tax payer’s pockets?

          • Feel free to presume that. I am.
            Don’t assume that you know how ‘cons’ think, or that one speaks for all.
            Taxpayer money going to political parties is wrong. But given the choice between the two, I would choose the one that at least requires that I am out $1000 for a certain amount of time, and that I am out $250 permanently. I have to ‘support’ the party, before I want to see hard earned money go to it.

          • Yeah right.  When was the last-time a political donation came out of your pocket?  You write a cheque for $100 to a political party, my tax dollars give you $75 of it right back at tax time. 

            As for who can afford to donate, two things.  First, all the collected bottles in the world won’t add up to the same influence that can be bought by an upper middle class voting block each donating the maximum allowable.  Secondly, I’m always amused at how Conservatives assume that everyone can spare *something.*   Sure, those people collecting bottles to supplement their welfare COULD donate it to a party.  They could save up and buy a Nintendo too.  But I’m gonna guess they’ll use it for baby food or vitamins or something a little more essential.  If you honestly think that the working poor, the single mothers, the homeless, etc. are really so well off that they have the capacity to make political donations, then you truly are deluded about the depressing state of our nation (which is doubtless why you voted Conservative in the first place)

          • When I donate $100 to a political party, it costs me $25. The other $75 comes from all TAXPAYERS. Not just you, and especially not if you pay no taxes.
            Have you seen how much bottle deposit is nowadays? I  would submit that just the bottles in one province would  destroy the amount of  money donated to all political parties.
            As per Tony below, quit assuming that the people who support the CPC are upper middle class.
            I never said that people who are struggling can’t put the money to another use, but so can I. I have tons of debt. What I said was that the vast majority of Canadians could give something (no matter how small), or donate time. It is you doing the ‘assuming’ that people who donate to political parties are ‘well off’ (vague term), and not people who are forgoing something to donate to the party of their choice.

          • You’re right, I do assume that, and you’ve done nothing to disprove me. ….because anybody with “tons of debt” had to have enough collateral to get that credit in the first place.  Kindly don’t try and pretend you’re some poor sod who’s starved for a day to make your $5 contribution.  As for your suggestion that the poor could collect bottles to buy themselves political power beyond what the rich can obtain easily, that’s just so far out in Lalaland, it’s just not worthy of a response. 

          • You do assume, and to quote Tony below, who did disprove you:
            “Canadians from upper (60%) and middle (58%) household income groups are
            significantly more likely than are those in lower income households
            (48%) to say they are unlikely to vote for the new Conservative Party.”

            You know nothing about me or my history, so to assume anything is pure bunk.

            I never said that ‘the poor’ (here we go again – one big group of clones) could buy the same clout that ‘the rich’ (another big group of clones) could buy. I was merely offering suggestions. I have repeatedly stated that very few Canadians could not donate something, if so inclined, yet you, and others misread this to think I mean all can afford something. It is plain English, yet you are missing it.

            Just out of curiosity, have you every worked at a soup kitchen, or with ‘the poor’? Your comments would suggest no. You assume too much.

          • BTW, you really don’t understand finance. A person does not need collateral to get the credit  to enable themselves to get into tonnes of debt.

          • “Secondly, I’m always amused at how Conservatives assume that everyone can spare *something.*”

            Never said that.

            ” If you honestly think that the working poor, the single mothers, the
            homeless, etc. are really so well off that they have the capacity to
            make political donations…”

            Never said well off.

            I always said that there are a few people in Canada, who if so inclined, could not donate.

            Have you ever worked at a soup kitchen, or spent time with homeless people? From your comments I would guess not. You assume too much.

          • Afford to donate is self-explanatory.

            Your argument that “everybody can afford to donate” got Marie Antoinette beheaded.  It’s a closed world view that doesn’t acknowledge the reality that no, a lot of people can’t afford to donate. They’re living in the red on credit and welfare, any money they donate would be tax-payer funded anyway, and then it’d just add to the level of indebetedness they have to their landlord.

          • The comment is not self explanatory, and nowhere near a similar situation as what Marie Antoinette had.

            You say ‘a lot of people’, I say a few people.
            Some people who make tonnes are ‘living in the red’. It is all about choice. I have seen people on welfare who smoke. I can’t afford to smoke. (and yes I donate). I know people on welfare who have cell phones. I just got rid of mine because of cost. For you to say you know the inside of everyone’s home in Canada, and how much money they make and how they spend it is funny.

            If ‘afford to donate is self explanatory’, please assume that I missed it, and answer these questions. How much income would I have to make before I can ‘afford to donate’? What toys should I own before I consider to give? Do I have to be debt free before I give? How much should I give? A % of income? What if others in my family need the money? Can I afford to give if I have family members who need it? “Afford to donate is self explainitory”. You liberals kill me, thinking everything is cut and dry, and you know it all.

          • Also, I never said ‘everyone can afford to donate’, so why did you use quotes? It seems like you are misrepresenting what I said. I hope that it wasn’t deliberate.

          • Why are you being so obtuse? “Afford to donate” surely is simple enough to understand in this context…i take it as having disposable income. But after reading through your comments i think i see your point. Basically you’re saying those who are willing to make the necessary sacrifice to donate get to enjoy the spoils of taxpayer funded largesse. Presumably you’re trying to argue that someone below the poverty line should be capable of the same degree of discipline and commitment as yourself to party politics – in realworld terms, that’s simply ludicrous.Why can’t all those people stop being fat, or smoke…it’s simply  their own fault if they choose not to support a political party like you. So, i’ll give you some free advise…get your hand out of my pocket before you donate,and quit being a hypocrite.What you do with your own money is your own affair. 

          • After reading you comment, I would have to say that you didn’t read any of my comments, or you don’t understand English. Basically, you have missed all that I have said. Also, I am not a hypocrite. I have stated that no gov’t money should go to political parties, or did you miss that. What I do with my money is my affair, and what the gov’t does with our money is everyone’s affair. Why is it people who disagree with what I say, can’t at least make sure they know what I have said, before they post their comments on it. Also, why is it people who disagree with what I say seem to want to misquote me, or ‘boil down’ (basically) what I say, to something that doesn’t even resemble what I have posted. It is easy enough for people to go back and check what went on before. Lets try to stick to facts, and not put words in other people’s mouths.

          • “Afford to donate is self-explanatory …. They’re living in the red on credit and welfare, any money they donate would be tax-payer funded anyway, and then it’d just add to the level of indebetedness they have to their landlord.”

            “As for who can afford to donate, two things.  First, all the collected bottles in the world won’t add up to the same influence that can be bought by an upper middle class voting block each donating the maximum allowable.  Secondly, I’m always amused at how Conservatives assume that everyone can spare *something.*


            And I am always amused how left wing people think people can’t afford to donate. People who give $20 or $30 to party are not rich, they just care. 

            If educated wealthy people supported their party, NDP would not have to rely on people living in the red on credit and welfare or who collect bottles.

            Too bad left wing party has to rely on underclass for cash, those people could use the money themselves.

            I bet you two are university educated, too cheap to donate and making workers subsidize your party even tho they vote for someone else.


            “While less than one in five attend church regularly, those who do are far more likely to give to charities, and are substantially more liberal in the size of their gifts to both religious and non-religious organizations.

            The average annual donation from a churchgoer is $1,038. For the rest of the population, $295.”

            “Canadians from upper (60%) and middle (58%) household income groups are significantly more likely than are those in lower income households (48%) to say they are unlikely to vote for the new Conservative Party.” 

            “Although it does poorly with university educated Canadians, the Conservative Party is not shut out of the demographic, and few voters will go into the ballot booths with their thoughts fixed exclusively on knowledge and expertise …”

             ” …. the average donation to the Liberals was 3-5 times larger than the other parties (average donations were Bloc – $66.10; Conservatives – $90.23; Greens – $62.26; Liberals – $314.84, and; NDP – $64.57);”

            ” …… the Conservative Party has a base of individual donors that is much larger than the other four parties (the Conservatives received donations from 28,624 individuals, 3.3 times more than the NDP (which received donations from 8,663 individuals), 5.29 times more than the Liberals (which received donations from 5,409 individuals), 15.19 times more than the Bloc (which received donations from 1,884 individuals), and 40.03 times more than the Green Party (which received donations from 715 individuals),”

          • Merci. :)

          • Tony, excellent information.

          • Blah blah blah, we know Tony.. if only everybody operated like you did, the world would be peaches and cream.

            Fortunately, we’re allowed to have our own opinions, and often they’re the correct ones rather than yours.

            Once again I’ll point out, just because *you* think it’s easy to drop $20 or $30 on a political party does not in any way mean that it is easy for any number of families out there. Try to realize the world is not comprised of people like yourself.

          • The great is that they don’t have to donate because people like you and I that can donate, will.

  14. Absolutely. Government of, by and for those who can afford it. Peasants have no business expecting to have any say in how a country is run.

    • Well, to be fair, they are expected to have a say – they just don’t seem to educate themselves enough to make it an intelligent say.

    • You are taking this whole need for a vote subsidy a bit far siamdave.  Exactly who are these “peasants” in Canada who are currently voting and who will lose their say when the vote subsidy ends?

      • You’re really going for the “Give me actual names” argument?  You completely discount the possibility that there might be such people?

        • Oh no I am not asking for names.  I would be happy with a description of the people who are currently voting who will be harmed by the loss of the per-vote subsidy.

  15. Coyne, you’re perturbed by spending limits on parties constraining per-supporter voice. You’re essentially arguing that parties should be allowed to use money as a competitive advantage in elections. Sorry–does not compute with me.

    And a cap of $5000 still gives the wealthy a much greater say in the political process than relatively less well-off. $5000 for a rich person earning millions a year is one less suit they can have tailored (but likely no reduction in consumption at all). $5000 for someone on minimum wage is the difference between eating and not eating. Nevermind students, the homeless. Of course, these people don’t matter in our empirical method of evaluating the humanity of people: their pocketbook.

    So, the fairness argument here is not so clear cut. If you want to reduce the clout money brings to the political process, you absolutely need to reduce spending caps, and hard. I mean, if every Canadian eligible to vote were to give $5000 per year, would we be well served by the >$100 billion per year that our political parties (etc.) would have at their disposal?

    • I don’t think they would even have to raise the cap if they got rid of the other subsidies.  You guys seem to have a problem accepting the fact that the average Con supporter donates less than $200.00.  Also, the Libs and the NDP have plenty of supporters with enough money to donate as does the green party.  Even students in this country have $50.00 to $100.00 to donate if the incidence of alcohol poisoning and the numbers of young adults living with their parents is any indication.  What the real issue in all of this is the sense of “entitlement”.  You think the taxpayer should fund your party for you and at the same time, create a level playing field.  You feel that social programs such as medicare and old age pension should extend to politics.  When others disagree, you point out that 60% of Canadians didn’t vote for the Conservatives.  Well I have news for you, the last time the Liberals got more that 50% of the popular vote was 1967, yet Chretien and Trudeau had no problems leading their majority govts. like they did.

      • All of this is irrelevant to the point that parties should not be wagged by the tail of highly motivated zealots/true believers who donate to political parties, regardless of whether they are social conservative fundamentalists or union members who want to keep their government jobs paying uneconomic wages and benefits. I can assure you that the people who donate to each party are not representative of the people who vote for that party. Thus the party is torn between representing people and representing dollars. 

        • My mother, an 84 year old retired teacher, donated $100.00 toward her party. She hardly fits your criteria as a zeolot. You have no idea of who donates to the parties or whether or not they fit the criteria of who votes for the parties. This is purely speculation on your part.

          • ” What the real issue in all of this is the sense of “entitlement”.  You think the taxpayer should fund your party for you and at the same time, create a level playing field”

            At the risk of repeating myself[ i’ve pointed this out now on at least a dozen occasions to cons like you who choose to bring out this old chestnut] Meanwhile you seem to have no problem lining up at the public through when you donate to your party using tax payer dollars that are not your own. Sorry, but it leads me to conclude you aren’t serious about public subsidy at all; merely wishing to have your partisan idealogical pov override other pov.

          • I will repeat myself as well, I have no problem with getting rid of the tax benefit.  I am all for Andrew Coyne’s suggestion to get rid of all the subsidies and make the parties raise all their funds.  I do not think the parties should line up at the “public trough”.

          • Well that’s not what’s on the table, so I suggest you go talk to your party about amending their budget to make it so.

          • Yes, I will write a letter to the PMO.

          • Is her party the NDP?

            I didn’t say that every person who donates to a party is a zealot (but maybe your grandmother is), but that zealots make up a much larger percentage of the body of political donors than they do the electorate at large. This is almost by definition. Zealots are highly motivated to give up time and treasure to see their agenda implemented. 40% of electors can’t be bothered to vote, much less donate to their party.

            Give me $100k or a research grant and I’ll do a public opinion survey to provide evidence to support my preposition. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that political donors are much more politically motivated than the broad electorate. Would you make a similar wager to the contrary?

          • You assume my old mother is an dipper because she is a retired teacher….I’ll give you another hint…she is an Albertan.  As for giving you a $100K for a research grant… Andrew, are you hitting me up for a donation?

      • Personally, I don’t believe anybody should fund my party for me.  On the other hand, that IS what you seem believe.  I am a taxpayer, and I believe that $2 of MY taxes should go to the party I support.  You, on the other hand, seem to believe that we should get rid of that and keep the system where my taxes reimburse YOUR party’s supporters for the donations they made to your party.  If your party is truly worthy of so much more money than mine, let them prove it the old fashioned way:  by earning that many more VOTES.

  16. The remaining problem here is that those who donate to political parties are not representative of the broader public. If we allow money to move elections, then parties will be slaves to their sources of funds. So highly motivated ‘zealots’ will have vastly disproportionate influence in our political process. Rather than moderating our politics, it will lead to more dog-whistle politics and highly dogmatic policy-making rather than sober decision-making based on the available facts in a way most Canadians would find reasonable.

    • Oh poppycock!  These people are donating less than $200.00!  They aren’t zeolots.  They are the same people who donate to the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Fund and other charities.  They feel moved to donate to their political party.  They aren’t buying influence with their $100.00 to $200.00 for goodness sake.  They want to feel they are contributing to something they believe in.  They can lower the caps to $200.00 and you will still be complaining  because these people will still be donating.  You do not want to donate to your party, that is your business, but don’t make this people out to have nefarious adgendas because they do.

      • Poppycock back at ya! :)

        All those fundraising drives by good ole uncle Finley. Hitting up every body with a pulse who might vote conservative. Nothing wrong with motivated voters, but what i object to is the fear mongering and demagoguery this version of the CPC has raised to an art form.  

        • I am happy to share my “poppycock” with you!  I just have an issue with being labelled a zeolot just because I throw a few dollars at my political party.  I will also be throwing a few dollars at the Wildrose party in Alberta just to help them get rid of “Special Ed Stelmack and the Conservatives”.

          • I’m not labelling you a zealot for donating to a party. I’m guessing you have much stronger views on issues than the typical voter. Would you deny that?

            Making parties dependent on donations makes them dependent on the highly motivated–ie, those who have strong views on issues, so strong that they take food out of the mouths of starving African children to give money from their charity budget to a political party instead.

            Let’s be clear, I’d call myself a zealot too. I have much stronger political opinions than the mushy middle class independents who are swayed by arguments during elections. I’m usually a decided voter long before the election begins. McGuinty v Hudak is the first election where I haven’t had a solid decision six months before the vote. I’d venture that everyone who posts on the Macleans politics blogs are highly motivated, highly political people. People who are not representative of Canadians.

          • I would not say that I have stronger views that the average voter.  I might say that I am more likely to donate to causes than your typical person.  I donate to a lot of causes.  I am one of those kind of people who feels impelled to help those who are impoverished in my community.  I have two foster plan foster children; I have taken in my husband’s niece & raised her.  I  give of my time and financial support to my extended family &  friends.  I have worked & been financially generous with the mentally ill.  I don’t know how you or I can be sure that we are not representative of the typical Canadian.

      • “They want to feel they are contributing something they beleive in”

        Note the words “something they believe in”, consider the definition of zealot.

        The amount of the donation isn’t the issue at all, and you’re the only one who’s brought it up in this thread. The motivation behind it, and the type of party it encourages is.

        Private donations drive parties to the politics that serve the people who are willing to donate, ie, those who want to drive the political agenda in this country to some degree. This is a much smaller set of people than “voting citizens”, as the latter includes the vast majority of people who only get involved in politics during elections. During the between times, they expect their involvement during the election to have been enough to represent them.

        However, in a democratic system, we should have parties that represent all walks of people, not just those who want to drive the political agenda between elections.

        In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that that’s the idea which was behind the development of our periodic system of elections — that the populace will not be involved in politics most of the time. Now, I’d be willing to consider private donations if those to were restricted to only being advertised and collected during the political campaign. They still disadvantage the desperately poor, but they at least it doesn’t give advantage to the loonies like me who think that politics matter all the time.

        • The only reason I brought up the amount of money is that Andrew Coyne brought it up in his article.  It is important because it dispels the myth that the people donating to the Cons are rich and that a few of them are giving a lot of money instead of  a lot of them a giving a small amount of money.
          So, tell me, are the people who want to contribute to something they believe in….a search for a cure for disease perhaps… and in doing so give money to the causes also “zealots”?  A zeolot by definition is someone who is “fanatical and uncompromising in their religious, political…ideals/beliefs”.  I am neither fanatical nor uncompromising.

  17. We’ve got two programs that provide a lot of cash to political parties, parties that play a significant role in how our democracy functions.

    In one program about 13 million people allocate about $26 million on behalf of about 26 million people.

    With the other program about 0.25 million people allocate about $20 million dollars on behalf of the same 26 million people.

    The first program strikes me as being about 40 times more democratic than the second program.

    • Rewarding parties because people voted for them is democratic how?

      • A pure democracy makes all decisions (eg how to allocate $20 million) by giving equal effect to the input of each citizen;  there is no weighting of input on any basis – financial or education or eloquence or other – beyond one citizen, one say.

        Here we have two programs that allocate similar amounts of taxpayer money to federal political parties.  One program involves input from a bit over 50% of the adult citizens, while the other program involves input from only 1% of the adult citizens.

        Clearly the first program is much more democratic than the second, since it takes the input of many more citizens into account.

  18. I think the Mr. Coyne misses an important point. The goal of the per vote subsidy is not simply to eliminate disparities in funding but to promote diversity of political choice as a public good.

    There are more than two sides to any issue and Canadians as a whole benefit from having more than one or two viable national political parties. Canada is more united today because Quebec voters were able to choose a federalist option. That option would not have been available if subsidy had not permitted the NDP to run a full campaign in Quebec. Canada would be a weaker country if the distinctive voice of the Liberal party were lost. That may happen if the subsidy is eliminated.

    The problem with public goods is that it is difficult to fund them adequately through private donations alone. Economists have identified a number of obstacles.

    First, there is the “free rider” problem. A majority of Canadians may agree that maintaining a range of  political choice is in the public interest but so long as the system depends on private contributions alone, too many people will hope that their neighbours pay the cost. This is basically the same problem that arises with financing police protection, roads or any other service that benefits the public at large.

    The second obstacle is the transaction costs involved in political fund raising, A subsidy of $2.00 per voter is a minuscule amount for each individual to pay. The problem is that there is no cost effective way for parties to identify individual voters and collecting 2.00 from each of them.

    Parties address the problem of transaction costs by collecting larger amounts from a narrow base of voters. A fund raising campaign will generally try to turn political discourse from a public good to a private good by focusing on a few issues on which the base feels strongly, even if these positions do not have broad support in the electorate. A party which tries to be a “big tent” party and promote compromise positions will lose out.

    The per vote subsidy gives a party some breathing room to take a principled stand even if it offends some of its core supporters. We saw this in the current election when the NDP took a stand asbestos mining in the face of opposition from some major Quebec unions.

    Of course, these problems have always existed but they were less serious at a time when election campaigns depended much more on local candidates and volunteer work. Today there is no substitute for a national leader’s tour and a television ad campaign if a party wants to remain viable at the national level.

    • The problem with the subsidy is that it never extended the the really small parties that are just starting out.  Further, I don’t think you have to worry about the dippers, they have 246,000 registered nurses across the country, making between 60K and 80K per year, not to mention the teachers, the autoworkers, the postal employees.  Even if they do alienate a few unions, they have plenty of support with others.  The question is whether they can get these people who can clearly afford to donate, to donate.

  19. In a free and democratic society, isn’t it best if the people are fully informed? Won’t they make the best decisions only if they know a wide range of possibilities? Doesn’t this mean that parties should have an equal ability (within reason) to speak out on the issues of the day and present their views to citizens?

    One of the constraints on the equal ability of parties to present their views is the monetary resources that are available to them. To have truly free democratic discourse, the parties have to have an equal voice. The way to to do this is to give them all the same amount of money. In other words, have the government give each of the major parties a certain, equal amount of money. Then have another bracket for funding smaller parties, or regionally based parties.

    Only in this way can Canadians be appraised of all the options open to them

    • And just to refine this idea a bit, I could easily support a system that funds every national party, no matter how many candidates they run and almost no matter  what they stand for, by giving them a certain amount per vote, up to a national maximum.

      Not exactly sure what the national maximum should be set at, but somewhere around $2 million sounds about right.

    • With the current per-vote subsidy, small parties without at least 2 percent of the popular vote aren’t getting any money anyway. 

  20. And just to refine this idea a bit, I could easily support a system that funds every national party, no matter how many candidates they run and almost no matter  what they stand for, by giving them a certain amount per vote, up to a national maximum.

    Not exactly sure what the national maximum should be set at, but somewhere around $2 million sounds about right.

  21. Not too sure if it’s been pointed out, but if you want the party you voted for to receive $2.00, then send them $2.00.
    Pretty simple, I bet even a Liberal could figure it out.
    But then again, something should be said about being entitled to entitlements.

    • Absolutely.

      And when you send that $2.00 to a political party of your choice, you are not entitled to have the taxpayer provide you with a $1.50 refund via your tax return.

  22. I certainly agree that the donation subsidy should go. Allowing personal donations is in my opinion a neccesary concession to the equality principle, so at the very least we shouldn’t be amplifying its disproportionate influence with subsidies.

    However, if the equality principle mattered in our system, we’d keep the per vote subsidy. It’s ultimately the most equitable form of funding. It promotes attention to the population as a whole rather than special interest groups that are politically active. If you don’t have broad appeal, then you don’t have as much funding from this source. It is ultimately very democratic in this way.

    So here we are. The affluent and the politically active have made huge gains, while the influence of joe or jane-public has been marginalized.

    Denials are pointless. This is the result of the change. My $1K donation is far more powerful after this move than ever before, representing more influence on the parties than 200+ voters could deliver under the per vote subsidy, now magnified by the removal of said funding.

  23. It is not that it is a toonie for each vote.  It is the principle for me.  Paved roads, universal healthcare, old age pension, social assistance/welfare are necessary for the health and wellbeing of the entire population in very tangible ways.  You have yet to convince me that the doom and gloom scenario of removing the vote subsidy will come to pass when the subsidy was only brought in 7 years ago.  Look at Ms. Brousseau, the new NDP MP from Quebec who did no fundraising and no campaigning.  She actually spent much of the election in Las Vegas but her party should receive money for everyone who voted for her?

    • What Ruth Ellen Brosseau did was to give the voters in her riding a chance to reject a moribund Bloc and endorse a party and a leader that they admired.

      • Yes, she is a veritable Mother Theresa.  Far be it for people like me to criticize her in anyway but you feel free to say as many derogatory things as you can think of about people like me that donate $100.00 to our political party during an election.

  24. I do not see how it is a viable principle that all political parties should be funded only by people with their own money.  There are many voters who do not have the resources to financially support a political party but have the right to register their support with some of their tax money.  Some may not have the income to even pay taxes at a stage in their life, but still have the right to register their support.   In my opinion, the direct subsidy was a means to that end.  

    Those who have limited resources and thus pay very little in taxes may expand their power financially by having a tax credit.  This helps to level the playing field by permitting the poor to have a greater financial clout than would be the case with no tax credit.  I think that adjustments to the system should take this into account.  To do otherwise is to go back to a system that gives the wealthy segment of the population all the power.  We all know who benefits most from that!

  25. Andrew’s logic and Harper’s argument is flawed from the very outset.  Taxpayers are NOT subsidizing parties they don’t vote for!  Parties only get $2 for every vote they get.  If you don’t vote for Liberals, then the liberals don’t get your money.  If you vote for a Conservative, then the Conservatives get your money….