42

The Bloc, its leader, and their subsidies


 

3098134304_4c2573660f_o

Two things, both Bloc-related:

1) Turns out those rumours Gilles Duceppe was planning on stepping down tomorrow weren’t true after all. How do you mend a broken (Conservative) heart?

2) Last week, former Mulroney adviser Andrew Stark wrote that the federal government should modify the per-vote party subsidy program to cut out the Bloc’s funding.

You have to admire Stark’s honesty in framing his proposal as an explicit attack on the Bloc: “As long as the Bloc Québécois holds a lock on 40 to 50 seats in Parliament, neither of the two main political parties will have an easy time winning a majority.” Fittingly, Stark’s plan would cripple the Bloc’s finances while leaving the other parties’ perfectly intact.

This week, the Conservative Minister for Democratic Reform, Steven Fletcher, tells The Hill Times he agrees with Stark. Fletcher would, in fact, go further and shutter the program entirely, as the Conservatives tried to do late last year.

I’m a little surprised at how quickly the idea of a government kneecapping one or all of the opposition parties by changing their funding model has gone from being unpalatable partisan trickery to respectable policy. Even though putting the idea forward last November almost cost them their government, whatever the Conservatives have done since then to keep it afloat appears to have worked as well as they could have hoped. Sure, Duceppe has since shot back at Fletcher. But the usual suspects—including the types who get embarrassingly excited about a “scandal” involving a wafer—haven’t said much about either Stark’s or Fletcher’s plans.

Is everyone just resigned to the idea the subsidies are doomed?

[Photo lifted from dougsamu‘s Flickr page]


 

The Bloc, its leader, and their subsidies

  1. One can only hope (heavy sigh) ..this is turning out to be a far more entertaining summer than I thought it would a few months ago and that's for sure!

  2. Actually, the plan wouldn't have anywhere near the intended effect on the Bloc: like the rest of the parties they seem to have adapted to the threat of losing the subsidy by putting more effort into fund-raising, resulting in their quadrupling the numbers relied on by Stark.

    Which completely undercuts Stark's argument – though the more the parties are set up to deal with the loss of the subsidy (and it would be irresponsible for any of them not to), the more likely it will be to get chopped.

    • I'd have to go over the numbers, but it's possible the Bloc's fundraising surge has more to do with the way they account for their money. Apparently, the national party doesn't collect any money, leaving it up to the riding associations to raise their own funds, which distorts the way their numbers end up looking. (http://www.ledevoir.com/2009/08/11/262415.html) I honestly don't know if that's the case here—just pointing out that it's a possibility.

      • The riding fundraising since 2004 is accounted for, not in the central party returns, but in the riding association returns, which no-one has yet poured over and totalled yet. I've had this on my to-do list for awhile, but tried to get the central party fundraising modelled and charted first. Sounds like I better get on this, though, so people have a propert dataset to work from.

        Prior to 2004 the Bloc consolidated all its riding and central reporting. Post-2004 with the changes in legislation, it was no longer allowed to do that. So comparisons of central fundraising only, pre- and post-2004, between the Bloc and other parties are just not valid for the reason Paquette states.

        However, no such changes have occurred between last year and this year, so the Jurist is right (and thanks for the link!). In other words, nothing Paquette says in that story about their fundraising strategy and the different way it's accounted for now accounts for the observed surge this year, Philippe. But thanks for the Devoir citation. I'll be trying to post something on this later today or tomorrow if I can.

          • Cool; thanks. Although my french sucks, for which I apologize, even though I try to translate the tables and charts.

    • Not really, the only reason for Harper to cut the subsidy was because it would give the CPC an advantage to do so. Since the Bloc and LPC have raised more donations than before, the idea is no longer interesting. Especially since this move would harm the NDP and they don't want to do that.

  3. I dare say the public funding is no where a distortion like the publicly-subsidized tax refund of the other donations — 75% up to $400. That's where the reform should be focused, reducing it to at most 50% on the first $200…
    As to the public subsidies, I suggest that every ballot has a question at the bottom: "Do you wish to subsidize the party of your choice (as chosen above) with an annual $2 subsidy?"
    The people will then have the choice, the complainers will be able to complain about something else, while those who feel public subsidies of political parties are a legitimate means to promote their parties will be pleased, too.

    • Stop making sense.

    • ____ I suggest that every ballot has a question at the bottom
      Ahh, referendum, Reform Party idea.

      • Not so much a referendum, just an option where if you check the box, the party gets the $2; if not, the $2 just gets used on something else (but doesn't go to a party).

        • Can I just keep my $2?

      • Reform did support referenda, didn't they. Any idea why they dropped good ideas such as that one?

    • Why even have a 50% refund? Eliminate the credit completely, and do it now….THAT would be a small step towards true simplification of the tax system.

  4. "Is everyone just resigned to the idea the subsidies are doomed?"

    Huh?

    • That caught me off guard as well.

  5. I'm a little surprised at how quickly the idea of a government kneecapping one or all of the opposition parties by changing their funding model has gone from being unpalatable partisan trickery to respectable policy

    The fact that this is even possible is one more reason the subsidies need to be abolished. Funding for parties should not be funded by the taxpayers or government. It's opening the door to corruption, dirty tricks, coercion and any number of injustices.

    • So do you think that:

      – all tax deductions for political donations should be ended, from 75% to 0%?
      – political parties should pay rent to the government for their office space?
      – political parties should pay their share of the utilities and phone charges that run through the government buildings?
      – we should charge political parties for their use of the Parliamentary library in doing their policy research?
      – we should cut all research budget money that goes to political parties?

      These, and many many others, are ALL forms of subsidies out of taxpayer money.

      Democracy is expensive. It is not even simply a matter of only the wealthy being able to afford it without subsidies. Good policy and good distribution of information and good surveying of information requires funds, far more than political parties can raise themselves.

      There are some things in life – healthcare, security, infrastructure, courts, government, democracy – that should not be governed simply by competitive markets. There is a value in ensuring strong, viable, well-funded political parties and their opponents.

      • Obviously I'm not scf…..but I'm interested to know if you truly mean political parties, or politicians in general?
        Specifically, I believe that each MP has an allowance to setup a constituency office, complete with some staff. But that office is an office for government business, and has nothing to do with the political party to which the MP happens to belong. Seems to me that those expenditures should be funded as a part of federal government operations.
        If the parties are actually being given office space to conduct party business, yes, they should be paying to make use of that space.
        I do realize that on some occasions it is going to be difficult to keep the two roles separate, but separation of the two roles should be the ideal.

  6. The Conservatives nearly lost their mandate because of this, which started a "National Crisis" where the Conservatives called the NDP and Bloc a bunch of "socialists and separatists," a move which only angered everybody who didn't vote for the Conservatives. Duceppe then talks sovereignty with Marois for the first time in quite a while. Harper declaring Québec a unique nation within a united Canada lost it's power, the gains he made in Québec were lost, and sovereignty is back on the agenda (albeit the movement is nowhere near as strong as it once was).

    A comment was made on the article regarding Duceppe's plan to not retire regarding the people of Québec voting for the Bloc because they are viewed as a regional party who represent Québec's uniqueness within the federal framework. Trying to bankrupt them will only anger Québecers and open the sovereignty debate once again. Our nation's unity is NOT worth sacrificing for the over-bloated ego of Harper and his party. If Harper had a majority government, it would be due to his party's policy resonating with the majority of the Canadian people. Clearly the majority do not; trying to get power by bankrupting other party's isn't earning a mandate. It's stealing one.

    A policy that nearly brings down a government is a FAILED policy, but try to get that into the thick skulls of the Conservatives. This is undemocratic, unhonourable, unintelligent, and truly disgraceful and pathetic. Some people never learn.

  7. The Conservatives nearly lost their mandate because of this, which started a "National Crisis" where the Conservatives called the NDP and Bloc a bunch of "socialists and separatists," a move which only angered everybody who didn't vote for the Conservatives. Duceppe then talks sovereignty with Marois for the first time in quite a while. Harper declaring Québec a unique nation within a united Canada lost it's power, the gains he made in Québec were lost, and sovereignty is back on the agenda (albeit the movement is nowhere near as strong as it once was).

    A comment was made on the article regarding Duceppe's plan to not retire stating that the people of Québec voting for the Bloc because they are viewed as a regional party who represent Québec's uniqueness within the federal framework. Trying to bankrupt them will only anger Québecers and open the sovereignty debate once again. Our nation's unity is NOT worth sacrificing for the over-bloated ego of Harper and his party. If Harper had a majority government, it would be due to his party's policy resonating with the majority of the Canadian people. Clearly the majority do not; trying to get power by bankrupting other party's isn't earning a mandate. It's stealing one.

    A policy that nearly brings down a government is a FAILED policy, but try to get that into the thick skulls of the Conservatives. This is undemocratic, unhonourable, unintelligent, and truly disgraceful and pathetic. Some people never learn.

  8. The Conservatives nearly lost their mandate because of this, which started a "National Crisis" where the Conservatives called the NDP and Bloc a bunch of "socialists and separatists," a move which only angered everybody who didn't vote for the Conservatives. Duceppe then talks sovereignty with Marois for the first time in quite a while. Harper declaring Québec a unique nation within a united Canada lost it's power, the gains he made in Québec were lost, and sovereignty is back on the agenda (albeit the movement is nowhere near as strong as it once was).

    A comment was made on the article regarding Duceppe's plan to not retire stating that the people of Québec voting for the Bloc because they are viewed as a regional party who represent Québec's uniqueness within the federal framework. Trying to bankrupt them will only anger Québecers and open the sovereignty debate once again. Our nation's unity is NOT worth sacrificing for the over-bloated ego of Harper and his party. If Harper had a majority government, it would be due to his party's policy resonating with the majority of the Canadian people. Clearly the majority do not; trying to get power by bankrupting the opposition isn't earning a mandate. It's stealing one.

    A policy that nearly brings down a government is a FAILED policy, but try to get that into the thick skulls of the Conservatives. This is undemocratic, unhonourable, unintelligent, and truly disgraceful and pathetic. Some people never learn.

    • Worse. It won't come close to bankrupting them. So the only result will be a re-energized base of support.

    • So how did the BLOC survive all those years before 2003, without this taxpayer subsidy MacCross?
      ''From day one, he (Bouchard) put his new party on a regimen that excluded big corporate and union donations'',
      says Chantel Hebert.

      No $1.95, no union money, no big business donars……

      Unexpected consequensces: threatening to cut the subsidy is credited for the coalition attempt to seize power, not the economic stimulus, from last link above:
      ''Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, included the withdrawal of subsidies to parties in his economic statement in November. This had resulted in a common front of the opposition, which threatened to overthrow the government of Stephen Harper and form a coalition Liberal-NDP, with the support of the Bloc Quebecois.''(translation)

  9. I recall a poll last year showing the public was overwhelmingly opposed to subsidies to political parties.

    I'd venture to guess that as the economy has worsened, folks would be even more against the notion of "dole for politicians" while regular citizens suffer.

    It's not surprising that there's no uproar. It's economically and politically unpalatable.

    • Polls were taken while 'Coalition talks involve Chretien, Broadbent

      ''Reader polls at CTV.ca and CBC.ca show support for the cut to subsidies for political parties… CTV is showing an 80% support among those who took the poll…..
      . The CBC website shows 68% in favor of the cuts …''

      http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/posted/a

  10. "I'm a little surprised at how quickly the idea of a government kneecapping one or all of the opposition parties by changing their funding model has gone from being unpalatable partisan trickery to respectable policy."

    So a former and current party operative both endorse a policy plank that their party has recently attempted to legislate and that is tantamount to everyone now saying the policy is legit?

    Yeah you added the part of none of the usual suspects not being demonstrably outraged…. but really? does non-response in the midst of waning summer holidays to a statement made by a Minister, whose portfolio 9.5/10 Canadians could not identify if asked and some dude that advised a scandal-ridden PM 16+ years ago really suggest support for the policy or does if suggest people have taken off for a break?

  11. Is everyone just resigned to the idea the subsidies are doomed?

    Oh, you evil (what's male for temptress). You'd better be right…

    • tempter?

  12. In terms of reform, I would far rather see an elimination of the tax write-off subsidy rather than the direct one. The direct pay-per-vote has not generated an corruption that I am aware of todate, whereas the tax subsidy has an ongoing history ranging from sleazy to illegal. (Of course my 3 month old son wants to donate to the party!) Eliminating the tax-based subsidy would reduce the impact of passionate fringe groups on politics, reduce the use of 10 centers for fund raising, lower the advantage of incumbents (both MP's and parties)

    • The good thing about the public subsidy funding is that it rewards political parties for motivating voters. For providing reasons to vote. The CONs whole raisone de etre (sic) over the past few years is "How can we get fewer people to vote?"

  13. In today's Le Devoir Daniel Petit, a Conservative MP, is said to favour the elimination of the refundable tax credit for political donations. It would be interesting to know what his boss thinks about this.

  14. After what Harper did last year, any attempt at eliminating these subsidies will be spinned by the Separatists as the ROC flipping the bird to Quebecers. With Fletcher's comments on the record and that of Andrew Stark, Duceppe won't have a hard time convincing Quebecers that this government considers them to be second class citizens.

    As a matter of fact, Duceppe doesn't really have to say anything. These idiots are doing all the work for him. They somehow managed to have a staunch federalist like Andre Pratte defend the Bloc on this one.

    What these Reformers can't seem to get through their head is that attacking the Bloc in such a manner means also attacking the Quebecers who put them in office.

    The only way to take out the Bloc is to provide a strong alternative. And if these Reformers think that throwing money and paying lip service to Quebec's status as a nation is enough, then they don't understand Quebecers. That's why they weren't able to maintain their gains in that province. The minute Quebecers got a whiff of Harper's rightwing-reformist agenda, they recoiled.

    • The logic is that a $3M Bloc subsidy somehow prevents any national party from forming a majority government. In a country of 32 M people, we are supposed to believe that $3M is enough to stall parliament. Boy are we cheap or what ?

  15. After what Harper did last year, any attempt at eliminating these subsidies will be spinned by the Separatists as the ROC flipping the bird to Quebecers. With Fletcher's comments on the record and that of Andrew Stark, Duceppe won't have a hard time convincing Quebecers that this government considers them to be second class citizens.

    As a matter of fact, Duceppe doesn't really have to say anything. These idiots are doing all the work for him. They somehow managed to have a staunch federalist like Andre Pratte to defend the Bloc on this one.

    What these Reformers can't seem to get through their head is that attacking the Bloc in such a manner means also attacking the Quebecers who put them in office.

    The only way to take out the Bloc is to provide a strong alternative. And if these Reformers think that throwing money and paying lip service to Quebec's status as a nation is enough, then they don't understand Quebecers. That's why they weren't able to maintain their gains in that province. The minute Quebecers got a whiff of Harper's rightwing-reformist agenda, they recoiled.

  16. Dang, two "yets" in the first sentence. Any hope of comment preview functionality here yet, you guys?

  17. I wonder if the Conservative's really want to see the per-vote-support changed or rather want to force the Liberals/NDP to support it in an election. My guess is that the Conservative braintrust has truly written off Quebec. The alternative is they actually believe they can make inroads on the "only traitors vote for the Bloc" theme. Once you have written off Quebec, the only route left to majority is a massive win in Ontario. I suspect they believe that tying Ignatieff to the coallition and framing the coallition as a treacherous attempt to overthrough the legitimate government of the country is their best shot.
    Not a completely insane approach, (it might have worked in a snap election… but that would have violated the fixed election rule, again) however I suspect it will get harder both as time passes, and as the NDP resumes their standard approach of focusing attacks on the Liberals.

    • "The alternative is they actually believe they can make inroads on the "only traitors vote for the Bloc" theme. "

      I think that it would work. A campaign against the "seditionists" would win them a whole lot of support in rural Ontario. Such a campaign would also strengthen the Bloc, meaning an opportunity to choke off a Liberal surge in that province. I also think that Tories will make reforms to the refugee system a campaign item.

      Nothing like a combined attack of francophones and immigrants to whip voters into a frenzy. It just might work.

  18. You can be certain that if the Liberals were in the same financial position as the Conservatives last year….the Liberals would be all for scrapping the subsidy, but like all Liberals…..they only approve of what works best in their personal interests.

    • Ah, the desperate, twisted rationale of a befuddled CON supporter: We suck, but you sucked first!

    • Election financing reform was widely seen as a poison pill that Chretien left for Paul Martin. Whether Chretien did it to throw a petty barrier in the way of his successor or to have a legacy doesn't matter if it was the right thing to do, but it was done by Chretien and it wasn't done to benefit the Liberals.

Sign in to comment.