173

Making your vote count


 

Adam Chapnik makes a case for the per vote subsidy.

Votes for losing candidates become virtually meaningless the moment the election results are announced, while voters who supported landslide winners – and particularly those who consider elections like this one unnecessary – are left to wonder why they bothered coming out in the first place. The voter subsidy changes things. For now, Canadian ballots – at least at the federal level – are never wasted. Even if Canadians know that their candidate does not stand a chance of winning in a particular riding, they can be assured that their vote will make a difference. It will serve as a $2 contribution to the political party of their choice, a donation that can then be used by that party to develop stronger policies and run a better campaign the next time.


 

Making your vote count

  1. …or for multiple campaign offices in SGI operating fulltime between elections.

  2. Your ballot is never wasted because of the per vote subsidy? Really?

    That is a lame excuse, frankly. If anyone would like to make a two dollar donation to their party of choice, put down the XBox controller and go to your MP's office and give him a toonie. It's called "personal responsibility".

    What else are we going to ask our federal government to do for us – that we would rather not do for ourselves?

  3. …or for multiple campaign offices in SGI operating fulltime between elections.

  4. Your ballot is never wasted because of the per vote subsidy? Really?

    That is a lame excuse, frankly. If anyone would like to make a two dollar donation to their party of choice, put down the XBox controller and go to your MP's office and give him a toonie. It's called "personal responsibility".

    What else are we going to ask our federal government to do for us – that we would rather not do for ourselves?

    • Hey, i wish all parties were funded by every adult giving $5 to a party.Unfortunately, m'boy, that is not the world we live in.

    • Nobody's saying you can't do that as well, what Adam is saying is that the subsidy gives votes, even for the losers, even in runaway ridings, some meaning, so it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy.

      If we put in some sort of proportional representation system, then I'm perfectly happy with removing the per-vote subsidy. Until then, however, I think it's a distinct improvement to our democracy.. and I say that even knowing how it supports the Bloc.

      • "so it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy"
        Sounds good, Except – 2008 had the lowest voter turnout ever at 59.1% of registered voters.

        • And if the per-vote subsidy was the *only* factor driving people to the polls or away from them, you'd have a point..

          so unless you have a regression study available showing that turnout wouldn't have been even lower than that without the subsidy.. no?

          Hmm.. guess that means you're pointless.

          • Nice you call me ‘pointless'
            You state “ it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy” with nothing to back it up whatsoever. I point that since it was introduced in 2004, voter turnout has declined(fact).
            Is that how partisan on here work? Make a claim and unless you can prove it is wrong, its correct?
            Maybe the per-vote subsidy has turned people away from voting?

          • Fact? http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=ele&…

            2004 election: 60.9% turnout.
            2006 election: 64.7% turnout.

            Perhaps we can continue this conversation when you understand what a fact is.

            Hint, it's probably not something you'll find in the CPC platform.

          • I will try
            2008 election 59.1% turnout – Fact, Lowest voter turnout ever – Fact
            Perhaps we can continue this conversation when you can back up your statement that “it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy” But I am guessing if you could you already would have.

          • You apparently already spotted it, in the comment by John D.

            I will add to that with my own anecdotal experience of my partner. I'm fairly rabid about politics, my partner not so much, because we live in a landslide riding (Calgary East). Previously my partner generally wouldn't bother to vote because there was no point. Since I pointed out that voting provides the party with some money out of our taxes, it was concluded that it being able to direct it to a party was better than allowing it to just go to general revenue.

            So now we both vote.

            Incidentally, since we both now agree that voting turnout doesn't proceed on a straight line progression, we can obviously see that my original point of the subsidy not being the sole defining factor for whether a person votes is also true, and thus return to the original statement.. your citation of voting rates declining has no point.

          • Personally I don't like subsidizing political parties in any way, including a tax credit. I am glad it brought your wife out to vote! We definitely need more people involved.
            So now I know that your claim that “it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy” was based on your personal experience. No more. If you had evidence that she was the norm & not the exception I might be inclined change my opinion of the ‘vote subsidy'.

          • Even if that was the only person on earth who it encouraged to vote, the point would still stand.. it provided encouragement. This is also corroborated below by John D, so you now have two entirely separate anecdotes confirming it.

            Now, if you want to argue how much encouragement it provides, that's a separate argument, but to make it, you first have to concede that it does.

          • I will concede that it provided encouragement based on your personal experience corroborated below by John D. I am just not sure that is enough to change my opinion. It might make for an interesting poll question.

          • Understanding of statistics FAIL.

            Correlation does not imply causation. That is all.

          • Personally, the only reason i bothered voting last time was the subsidy. The winner, whom I would never vote for, won by 20,000 votes, so it was nice that my vote meant something, somewhat.

    • What really irks me is that the subsidy goes to the Bloc. While the last time I looked voters for the Bloc are Canadians and they have a right to support the party of their choice, I find that it "unreal" that the Canadain Government is supporting a party that wants to break up canada as we know it.
      Cut -off their support and the Bloc as a political party goes away.

      • I'd rather the Bloc as a political party went away because of their ideas, not because of their finances. If we kill them at the financial level, do you really think the feelings that drive them would disappear?

        Or would they just turn into further resentment?

        Need I remind you of the FLQ?

      • It's quite possible that it is the Bloc that has helped to make separatism irrelevant by providing a release valve for regional frustrations. The Bloc can't do squat to advance the separation of Quebec from Canada.

    • I've voted in every election I've been eligible to vote in since I was 18. I've also scored 100% completion in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

  5. The reality is the money is a major determinant of elections. Only about 1% of Canadians actually donate to political parties. Clearly my friends the very first step we must take is to stop the tax credit subsidy which assists a very small group of people from distorting the Canadian system.

  6. We're talking about a difference of less than $10 during a normal parliamentary term. Why not vote strategically and give a roll of toonies to your favourite party?

  7. The reality is the money is a major determinant of elections. Only about 1% of Canadians actually donate to political parties. Clearly my friends the very first step we must take is to stop the tax credit subsidy which assists a very small group of people from distorting the Canadian system.

  8. We're talking about a difference of less than $10 during a normal parliamentary term. Why not vote strategically and give a roll of toonies to your favourite party?

    • That is indeed another option and nobody is preventing you from doing so!

  9. I will lose no sleep if they get rid of the per-vote subsidy. However, the above argument — and I've heard it before — is the most compelling reason to keep the subsidy (for me, at least). It adds value to the voting process. The way our system works, if you vote for the losing party, your vote isn't worth squat. With the subsidy, that means that at least $2 is going to go to the party you prefer. I pay a few thousand dollars to the federal government in taxes every year… if $2 of that is going to go to the party I voted for, great.

  10. I will lose no sleep if they get rid of the per-vote subsidy. However, the above argument — and I've heard it before — is the most compelling reason to keep the subsidy (for me, at least). It adds value to the voting process. The way our system works, if you vote for the losing party, your vote isn't worth squat. With the subsidy, that means that at least $2 is going to go to the party you prefer. I pay a few thousand dollars to the federal government in taxes every year… if $2 of that is going to go to the party I voted for, great.

  11. Hey, i wish all parties were funded by every adult giving $5 to a party.Unfortunately, m'boy, that is not the world we live in.

  12. I still have not heard a convincing argument for why voting should not be mandatory.

    I can't see why we can't put in legislation requiring this.

  13. I know a lot of people who live in landslide ridings (screw you, Calgary West) only go out to vote because of the subsidy. Sure, they could send the party a toonie, but it's the symbolism that's important too.

  14. That is indeed another option and nobody is preventing you from doing so!

  15. I still have not heard a convincing argument for why voting should not be mandatory.

    I can't see why we can't put in legislation requiring this.

    • Would you allow a spoiled ballot as sufficient to satisfy the requirement in the mandatory vote?
      If you do, why make it mandatory?

      If you don't, what happens when you get the anarchist who honestly believes that voting for any candidate is betraying his beliefs?

      • Sorry, got distracted by work. But yes, a spoiled ballot would be completely sufficient to satisfy the requirement. My only requirement would be that they enter the booth with a ballot, come out, and put the ballot in a box. What they write on the ballot is irrelevant to me.

        But the idea that they sit at home and watch TV during the election itself is repugnant to me. It's not entertainment, it's democracy. It's not a spectator sport.

    • If they can't be arsed to vote on their own volition, I can't see how adding their apathetic, uninformed, lazy opinion to the process is going to improve anything. If anything, it will encourage an even lower common denominator approach to advertising, where the aprties will be screaming lies – I'm sorry, deeply held interpretations of events – and bald images to try and penetrate the mist of those determined not to pay attention.

      • lower approach to advertising? How low can it go now that the The Harper Government TM hs used $26 million taxpayers' funds in March advertising the EAP that could no longer accept applications because it was ending???!!???
        As for lies, look no further than that group, first ever held in contempt by the House of Parliament.

      • If anything, it will encourage an even lower common denominator approach to advertising, where the parties will be screaming lies – I'm sorry, deeply held interpretations of events – and bald images to try and penetrate the mist of those determined not to pay attention.

        I thought that's what they were doing now …

    • Australia has made voting mandatory. You're subject to a small fine payable with any government license renewal, I think, if you fail to obtain a ballot.

      • Yes, and their voter participation went from abysmal to almost 100%.

        Since we've got almost 1 out of every 2 people sitting home for the election, I think it's time for a swift kick in the pants on this.

    • My first thought when I read your post was 'good idea'. But then I though, What percentage of the population even understand/follow politics? I am not trying to sound elitist, but some people 'self select' themselves out of the political process. It might be good that people who don't know a thing about the issues don't vote. (And I mean this regardless of who wins the elections, and my political stripe). What I would envision happening is that the attack adds would go nuts, as each party tries to scare these uninformed voters away from other parties. It might end up being a mess.

      • Or, it might end up working out great when the shirkers get motivated for the first time ever to be serious about their obligations…aaah, who am I trying to kid?

        • If people had to vote then just maybe they would educate themselves and tune in to how their daily lives are affected by politics.

        • Thanks, FVerhoeven, that was an interesting read! I must say that I–shockingly–disagree with the claims about compulsory voting 'muddying' the policy discussion. The world has not ended in Australia, and while politics is never elegant it does not appear that theirs is in any way debased compared to ours.

          Is it really too much to ask for a voter to get out and vote? Do we turn away jurors because they're not adequately trained to make such decisions? I think we can make room in our democracy for a little compulsory voting.

          • I do this with a bit of a chuckle, but these are the folks that we would be forcing to vote (obviously from the states, but we have them too . . .) You will get a laugh.
            http://i.imgur.com/cgCUT.jpg

          • Dude, that image just gave me a fear of chickens. :D

            But I think we're putting voting on a bit of a pedestal; we're not asking them to run the country, we're simply asking them to figure out which candidate to put an 'X' next to. And it'll probably be the candidate whose hand they shook when they came to their door, which rewards the efforts of everyone…and really begins to blunt the impact of the television commercials.

            I mean, I'm a bit of a political animal, but I definitely felt my opinion change toward John Baird when I saw him canvassing my neighbourhood today. I really didn't expect to see him out there, shaking hands and running through his pitch to everyone on my street. I'm sure he influenced quite a few votes.

          • i only posted that because my brother just posted it on facebook. It kinda seemed to fit.

            I am not saying I am against mandatory voting, I am just not sold on it. I just can't wrap my mind around the net benefit of it. Would the percentages stay the same? Would people figure the best tactics to 'get the x', which might not be good for the country. I guess I am just concerned that people who know nothing about politics would be forced to vote.

            Your comment about Baird drove it home for me. What if they do vote for the 'guy who shook their hand'? Does that give an advantage to the politicians who are not currently elected (they still have some duties to perform).

            Bottom line, I don't think that by being forced to vote, they would take a interest, so all in all, it seems like a moot point to me.

          • Yeah, it's food for thought, either way, right.

            Imagine what a country like Canada would look like if the average voter would put a little bit of real thought into party policies and parties would actually have to speak to such general interest.

            It would mean we could finally rise above all of this nonesense we're seeing in this election.

            Canada has such great, great potential to unleash. And it is a matter of real participation by the voter.

            I know people are busy, but just reading up on things on a daily basis is not too much to ask for.

            I do blame the media a little bit too, for not wanting to engage the average voter into a real debate on issues. It seems to me that Canada is sometimes afraid to really discuss the issues. Somehow I always feel that the point of view and the person holding the views cannot be separated. But if someone holds a reasoned opinion, they should never be attacked on a personal level for holding such opinions. That's happening too much in Canada, methinks.

            A good debate should always be based on reasoned argument. That's the beauty of a good debate.

            Seems to me that the average voter has to understand the difference between taking the individual as a start-off point or taking the collective as the start-off point. All policies proposed come down to the basic fact of how we would like our societies to progress. And the right basically takes the individual as the start-off point, whereas the left takes the collective as the start-off point. But start-off points can be argued about reasonably. It really is a matter of how to get to that better society.

  16. I know a lot of people who live in landslide ridings (screw you, Calgary West) only go out to vote because of the subsidy. Sure, they could send the party a toonie, but it's the symbolism that's important too.

    • What did they do before the subsidy?
      Not Vote?

      • Yes

  17. Nobody's saying you can't do that as well, what Adam is saying is that the subsidy gives votes, even for the losers, even in runaway ridings, some meaning, so it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy.

    If we put in some sort of proportional representation system, then I'm perfectly happy with removing the per-vote subsidy. Until then, however, I think it's a distinct improvement to our democracy.. and I say that even knowing how it supports the Bloc.

  18. Would you allow a spoiled ballot as sufficient to satisfy the requirement in the mandatory vote?
    If you do, why make it mandatory?

    If you don't, what happens when you get the anarchist who honestly believes that voting for any candidate is betraying his beliefs?

  19. If they can't be arsed to vote on their own volition, I can't see how adding their apathetic, uninformed, lazy opinion to the process is going to improve anything. If anything, it will encourage an even lower common denominator approach to advertising, where the aprties will be screaming lies – I'm sorry, deeply held interpretations of events – and bald images to try and penetrate the mist of those determined not to pay attention.

  20. There a whole lot more friction in having to make a small donation each year.

    The vote subsidy program isn't very expensive. If we want to save some cash, I'd say reduce campaign expense reimbursements and reduce the generosity of the donation tax credit to the level of a regular charity.

  21. It seems to me the per vote subsidy has proven to be the bare minimum it takes for national parties to be able to field a campaign during an election. Without additional revenue, they cannot advertise during non-election periods. So the free market believers still get the bang for their buck and the inherent strengths associated with having a popular message and a popular leader. Meanwhile, the rest of Canada gets the benefit of at least hearing alternative voices. I do think, however, that the per vote subsidy should be linked to running a national party, with a national slate of candidates. We should not be encouraging regional protest parties.

  22. I think people should at least have to get off their duff and make their way to the polling station. If people knew they had to, maybe they might take ten minutes to think about who they'd support. If they still don't want to vote, I'm ok with refusing the ballot (which you should do rather than spoiling) or adding a 'none of the above' option. The latter may deflate some of the moral authority of the winning party when their share of electors is only 30%.

  23. So if I hold my nose and vote for what I think is the least worst party they give some of my money to them as well. While there are reasonable arguments for subsidizing political parties (although I disagree with these arguments) forcing me to donate money is not one of them.

    I also found this amusing.

    It will serve as a $2 contribution to the political party of their choice, a donation that can then be used by that party to develop stronger policies and run a better campaign the next time.

    I guess he hasn't seen or heard any of the ads in this election. Political parties are a big part of the problem and giving them more money is not helping.

  24. So if I hold my nose and vote for what I think is the least worst party they give some of my money to them as well. While there are reasonable arguments for subsidizing political parties (although I disagree with these arguments) forcing me to donate money is not one of them.

    I also found this amusing.

    It will serve as a $2 contribution to the political party of their choice, a donation that can then be used by that party to develop stronger policies and run a better campaign the next time.

    I guess he hasn't seen or heard any of the ads in this election. Political parties are a big part of the problem and giving them more money is not helping.

    • Meh. They give some of my money to people who donate to political parties and I get no say in that at all.

      I'd rather I at least get to direct it.

      • We've been here before :). I'd rather they did neither (per-vote subsidy or tax deduction).

        • Fair enough, but I do think there's value in providing small parties that have shown they can muster a significant amount of interest the ability to spread their message across the nation to see if there's any more interest in it.

          I'm less sure of the worth of the subsidy for larger parties, however there I fall back to the notion of the subsidy encouraging people to take part in our democracy, when otherwise rational self-interest would suggest they not bother.

          As any economist will tell you, going out to vote is an irrational decision, because your individual vote will basically *never* make any difference. This is even more pronounced in landslide ridings, or when you prefer a candidate who you know is vastly at odds with the preferences of the rest of your riding. The per-vote subsidy provides a rationale for a person to vote.

          • "As any economist will tell you, going out to vote is an irrational decision, because your individual vote will basically *never* make any difference."

            That's why economists don't make good politicians.

            Wait, what?

          • Except that if I don't want money to go to the party I'm voting for then it is a disincentive to vote. That may sound perverse, but that is in fact how I feel (I'll still be voting though).

            However, I do agree with the idea of funding small parties, at least if we can't go with my first choice, which would be to entirely decentralize the large parties in an effort to give MPs more power and encourage them not to behave like party employees.

          • Totally with you on that last bit, but no idea how to make it happen without getting really intrusive with legislation about party organization.. and since at the end of the day a political party is a quasi-private entity, I'm a bit leery of heading down that route.

          • So my cunning plan (well, fantasy really) is to starve them of funds so they can't efficiently run a vast centralized evil empire organization.

          • They don't need funds for that though. They can set up the centralized organization for free. That's just bylaws and articles of incorporation. At the end of the day they'll still get funded, the question is do we want them beholden to the public for public funds, or to private entities for private funding?

            Given that choice, I'd far rather public subsidies than not.

  25. I think that the majority of people who want the per-vote subsidy eliminated want to do so because this would provide an advantage for the Conservatives – who have enough wealthy backers that they don't really need it.

    This is doubly true if the person who wants the subsidy eliminated does not also advocate the removal of the tax credit for political contributions.

    The cost to taxpayers of the subsidy was $27.4 million in 2010 (source is here) – which is slightly more than half of the $50 million dollars allocated to the "G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund" that Tony Clement was given to play with.

  26. So parties of the left should not be expected to be popular (in both senses of the term)? Call up the President of the United States, he might be able to convince you otherwise. Agree about the regional party problem.

  27. I think that the majority of people who want the per-vote subsidy eliminated want to do so because this would provide an advantage for the Conservatives – who have enough wealthy backers that they don't really need it.

    This is doubly true if the person who wants the subsidy eliminated does not also advocate the removal of the tax credit for political contributions.

    The cost to taxpayers of the subsidy was $27.4 million in 2010 (source is here) – which is slightly more than half of the $50 million dollars allocated to the "G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund" that Tony Clement was given to play with.

    • I believe the Conservatives recieve a whole bunch of little donations. Their average donation is much smaller than the Liberal Party"s average donation.

      • Meaning, oddly enough, that the rest of Canada pays even more for it, because the rebate you get at the upper levels of donation goes down.

      • Well, the smaller donations earn the biggest percentage refund.

    • I think this is confused. The per vote subsidy exists to offset the impact of the cap on political donations – which badly affected the Liberals, who traditionally relied on a small number of wealthy contributors but a sizeable share of the popular vote. It seems like that's still true – if the Liberals' average donation is higher than the Tories', then the Liberals are still relying on larger donations from fewer people. Is their vote share larger than their share of fundraising? I get the impression it is.

      I can see a pretty strong rationale for a progressive tax credit for political donations, based on the public good of civic engagement and concerns about free-riding, but the per vote subsidy seems to overlap with the campaign expense reimbursements. Are those both necessary?

      • Their vote share being larger than their share of fundraising is an argument for keeping the per-vote subsidy, as it means they are more beholden to the public at large — to ensuring their ideas have support of everybody, not just those who can donate.

        • The Liberal party relies on those who can donate the most and uses their donations to win the votes of those who have very little interest in politics. I don't see that as an argument for keeping the vote subsidy. To the extent the subsidy discourages "strategic voting" and encourages people to vote for a party they actually support, I think it's a wonderful thing.

  28. And if there was a small fine as penalty for not voting, it could fund the per vote subsidy!

  29. lower approach to advertising? How low can it go now that the The Harper Government TM hs used $26 million taxpayers' funds in March advertising the EAP that could no longer accept applications because it was ending???!!???
    As for lies, look no further than that group, first ever held in contempt by the House of Parliament.

  30. And if there was a small fine as penalty for not voting, it could fund the per vote subsidy!

  31. Oh, I agree entirely with the off the duff point. And to be honest, my opposition to mandatory voting is pretty weak. I wouldn't really mind if it was imposed, I just don't think that the restrictions to individuals and the costs to society would be outweighed by the very nebulous benefits it promises.

    That said, I automatically discount any arguments that appeal to a moral authority or lack thereof.. I think our current government explains why quite handily. In reality, all authority stems from the ability to put another person in distress, so moral authority really only matters to those it already matters to — to all others, it doesn't mean a thing unless backed by the threat of revolution or violence.

  32. Oh, I agree entirely with the off the duff point. And to be honest, my opposition to mandatory voting is pretty weak. I wouldn't really mind if it was imposed, I just don't think that the restrictions to individuals and the costs to society would be outweighed by the very nebulous benefits it promises.

    That said, I automatically discount any arguments that appeal to a moral authority or lack thereof.. I think our current government explains why quite handily. In reality, all authority stems from the ability to put another person in distress, so moral authority really only matters to those it already matters to — to all others, it doesn't mean a thing unless backed by the threat of revolution or violence.

  33. Advertising during non-election periods is not a Canadian given, though it is in the US. I do not think I am the only Canadian appalled by free-marketers like the National Citizens Coalition's recent attack ad on Ignatieff's wife. You invite the very free-for-all that lowers lowest common denominators.

  34. Advertising during non-election periods is not a Canadian given, though it is in the US. I do not think I am the only Canadian appalled by free-marketers like the National Citizens Coalition's recent attack ad on Ignatieff's wife. You invite the very free-for-all that lowers lowest common denominators.

    • That's how the republicans, I mean conservatives work.

  35. Amen to that!

  36. Amen to that!

  37. Most people understand there's a benefit to being able to hear alternative points of view.

    At least, most people who aren't CPC supporters.

  38. Most people understand there's a benefit to being able to hear alternative points of view.

    At least, most people who aren't CPC supporters.

  39. Meh. They give some of my money to people who donate to political parties and I get no say in that at all.

    I'd rather I at least get to direct it.

  40. I'm not sure I quite follow? At the moment, in Canada, the CPC has a popular message with its base, a successful leader, strong organizational skills and a weak opposition. 10-15 years ago that described the Libs. The pendulum swings. Personal charisma waxes and wanes. I would offer the opinion that the country as a whole benefits from a relatively stable set of national choices and ensuring they are a) not in the pockets of big business by reducing corporate subsidies and b) able to mount a reasonable election campaign, might be in our general interest over the long term. Partisans of all stripes, depending on where the pendulum has reached in its arc, will want the subsidies to end when it's to their advantage, but one day it will start swinging in the other direction.

  41. I'm not sure I quite follow? At the moment, in Canada, the CPC has a popular message with its base, a successful leader, strong organizational skills and a weak opposition. 10-15 years ago that described the Libs. The pendulum swings. Personal charisma waxes and wanes. I would offer the opinion that the country as a whole benefits from a relatively stable set of national choices and ensuring they are a) not in the pockets of big business by reducing corporate subsidies and b) able to mount a reasonable election campaign, might be in our general interest over the long term. Partisans of all stripes, depending on where the pendulum has reached in its arc, will want the subsidies to end when it's to their advantage, but one day it will start swinging in the other direction.

  42. I believe the Conservatives recieve a whole bunch of little donations. Their average donation is much smaller than the Liberal Party"s average donation.

  43. "so it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy"
    Sounds good, Except – 2008 had the lowest voter turnout ever at 59.1% of registered voters.

  44. What really irks me is that the subsidy goes to the Bloc. While the last time I looked voters for the Bloc are Canadians and they have a right to support the party of their choice, I find that it "unreal" that the Canadain Government is supporting a party that wants to break up canada as we know it.
    Cut -off their support and the Bloc as a political party goes away.

  45. And if the per-vote subsidy was the *only* factor driving people to the polls or away from them, you'd have a point..

    so unless you have a regression study available showing that turnout wouldn't have been even lower than that without the subsidy.. no?

    Hmm.. guess that means you're pointless.

  46. I'd rather the Bloc as a political party went away because of their ideas, not because of their finances. If we kill them at the financial level, do you really think the feelings that drive them would disappear?

    Or would they just turn into further resentment?

    Need I remind you of the FLQ?

  47. Meaning, oddly enough, that the rest of Canada pays even more for it, because the rebate you get at the upper levels of donation goes down.

  48. Well, the smaller donations earn the biggest percentage refund.

  49. Nice you call me ‘pointless'
    You state “ it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy” with nothing to back it up whatsoever. I point that since it was introduced in 2004, voter turnout has declined(fact).
    Is that how partisan on here work? Make a claim and unless you can prove it is wrong, its correct?
    Maybe the per-vote subsidy has turned people away from voting?

  50. Nice you call me ‘pointless%E2%80%99
    You state “ it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy” with nothing to back it up whatsoever. I point that since it was introduced in 2004, voter turnout has declined(fact).
    Is that how partisan on here work? Make a claim and unless you can prove it is wrong, its correct?
    Maybe the per-vote subsidy has turned people away from voting?

  51. Fact? http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=ele&…

    2004 election: 60.9% turnout.
    2006 election: 64.7% turnout.

    Perhaps we can continue this conversation when you understand what a fact is.

    Hint, it's probably not something you'll find in the CPC platform.

  52. If anything, it will encourage an even lower common denominator approach to advertising, where the parties will be screaming lies – I'm sorry, deeply held interpretations of events – and bald images to try and penetrate the mist of those determined not to pay attention.

    I thought that's what they were doing now …

  53. We've been here before :). I'd rather they did neither (per-vote subsidy or tax deduction).

  54. Fair enough, but I do think there's value in providing small parties that have shown they can muster a significant amount of interest the ability to spread their message across the nation to see if there's any more interest in it.

    I'm less sure of the worth of the subsidy for larger parties, however there I fall back to the notion of the subsidy encouraging people to take part in our democracy, when otherwise rational self-interest would suggest they not bother.

    As any economist will tell you, going out to vote is an irrational decision, because your individual vote will basically *never* make any difference. This is even more pronounced in landslide ridings, or when you prefer a candidate who you know is vastly at odds with the preferences of the rest of your riding. The per-vote subsidy provides a rationale for a person to vote.

  55. Sorry, got distracted by work. But yes, a spoiled ballot would be completely sufficient to satisfy the requirement. My only requirement would be that they enter the booth with a ballot, come out, and put the ballot in a box. What they write on the ballot is irrelevant to me.

    But the idea that they sit at home and watch TV during the election itself is repugnant to me. It's not entertainment, it's democracy. It's not a spectator sport.

  56. I will try
    2008 election 59.1% turnout – Fact, Lowest voter turnout ever – Fact
    Perhaps we can continue this conversation when you can back up your statement that “it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy” But I am guessing if you could you already would have.

  57. "As any economist will tell you, going out to vote is an irrational decision, because your individual vote will basically *never* make any difference."

    That's why economists don't make good politicians.

    Wait, what?

  58. Your guy scared everyone away. ;-)

  59. Except that if I don't want money to go to the party I'm voting for then it is a disincentive to vote. That may sound perverse, but that is in fact how I feel (I'll still be voting though).

    However, I do agree with the idea of funding small parties, at least if we can't go with my first choice, which would be to entirely decentralize the large parties in an effort to give MPs more power and encourage them not to behave like party employees.

  60. Australia has made voting mandatory. You're subject to a small fine payable with any government license renewal, I think, if you fail to obtain a ballot.

  61. Totally with you on that last bit, but no idea how to make it happen without getting really intrusive with legislation about party organization.. and since at the end of the day a political party is a quasi-private entity, I'm a bit leery of heading down that route.

  62. I think this is confused. The per vote subsidy exists to offset the impact of the cap on political donations – which badly affected the Liberals, who traditionally relied on a small number of wealthy contributors but a sizeable share of the popular vote. It seems like that's still true – if the Liberals' average donation is higher than the Tories', then the Liberals are still relying on larger donations from fewer people. Is their vote share larger than their share of fundraising? I get the impression it is.

    I can see a pretty strong rationale for a progressive tax credit for political donations, based on the public good of civic engagement and concerns about free-riding, but the per vote subsidy seems to overlap with the campaign expense reimbursements. Are those both necessary?

  63. What did they do before the subsidy?
    Not Vote?

  64. My first thought when I read your post was 'good idea'. But then I though, What percentage of the population even understand/follow politics? I am not trying to sound elitist, but some people 'self select' themselves out of the political process. It might be good that people who don't know a thing about the issues don't vote. (And I mean this regardless of who wins the elections, and my political stripe). What I would envision happening is that the attack adds would go nuts, as each party tries to scare these uninformed voters away from other parties. It might end up being a mess.

  65. So my cunning plan (well, fantasy really) is to starve them of funds so they can't efficiently run a vast centralized evil empire organization.

  66. They don't need funds for that though. They can set up the centralized organization for free. That's just bylaws and articles of incorporation. At the end of the day they'll still get funded, the question is do we want them beholden to the public for public funds, or to private entities for private funding?

    Given that choice, I'd far rather public subsidies than not.

  67. You apparently already spotted it, in the comment by John D.

    I will add to that with my own anecdotal experience of my partner. I'm fairly rabid about politics, my partner not so much, because we live in a landslide riding (Calgary East). Previously my partner generally wouldn't bother to vote because there was no point. Since I pointed out that voting provides the party with some money out of our taxes, it was concluded that it being able to direct it to a party was better than allowing it to just go to general revenue.

    So now we both vote.

    Incidentally, since we both now agree that voting turnout doesn't proceed on a straight line progression, we can obviously see that my original point of the subsidy not being the sole defining factor for whether a person votes is also true, and thus return to the original statement.. your citation of voting rates declining has no point.

  68. How about we increase the size of the per-vote subsidy, but make it a calculation where it is multiplied by the number of ridings contested . . . and then get rid of the 60% reimbursement for expenses. This is the only place citizens don't provide direct input into the funding of political parties, so I think it should be the one to go. Also, I particularly resent knowing I'm paying for the ads that wouldn't cost me a dime if they weren't made.

  69. How about we increase the size of the per-vote subsidy, but make it a calculation where it is multiplied by the number of ridings contested . . . and then get rid of the 60% reimbursement for expenses. This is the only place citizens don't provide direct input into the funding of political parties, so I think it should be the one to go. Also, I particularly resent knowing I'm paying for the ads that wouldn't cost me a dime if they weren't made.

    • We might need to keep some minimum level of campaign expense support for candidates from fringe parties, but this sounds like a completely reasonable way to go.

  70. Except that we already have laws about private funding of parties, so we can make those harsher and cut off the public funding as well.

    And here's an interim idea that I think might be popular, start reducing the public subsidy based on the amount of private funding that the parties get.

  71. Or, it might end up working out great when the shirkers get motivated for the first time ever to be serious about their obligations…aaah, who am I trying to kid?

  72. Except now you're just going for a pipe dream of cutting off all funding to political parties. I don't think that's a rational position to take, as it will leave our democracy immensely poorer when parties simply don't have the ability to get their message out.

    That might work for local politics, but on a national level I just don't see it as at all realistic.

    Realistically there will be funding.
    It will either be private, public, or a mix.

    I'm in favor of no mixing, and requiring a party to choose one or the other. However I am not in favor of eliminating public funding, because I think allowing only private funding means only the messages of those parties that appeal to those who can afford to fund them will get out.

    Equally, I'm not in favor of eliminating private funding, because how else do new parties and new ideas manage to spread out beyond the local community?

  73. Except now you're just going for a pipe dream of cutting off all funding to political parties. I don't think that's a rational position to take, as it will leave our democracy immensely poorer when parties simply don't have the ability to get their message out.

    That might work for local politics, but on a national level I just don't see it as at all realistic.

    Realistically there will be funding.
    It will either be private, public, or a mix.

    I'm in favor of no mixing, and requiring a party to choose one or the other. However I am not in favor of eliminating public funding, because I think allowing only private funding means only the messages of those parties that appeal to those who can afford to fund them will get out.

    Equally, I'm not in favor of eliminating private funding, because how else do new parties and new ideas manage to spread out beyond the local community?

    • It's not an easy issue, I agree, and my ideas need more thought. Still, I think we can do a lot better than the current system, and right now (IMHO) the major parties have way too much money.

      If nothing else, somehow we need to disconnect, or shelter the MPs from the party apparatus, and reduce the power of the PM (over the MPs). A good start would be to have the caucus appoint the cabinet. But I better get back to work …

  74. Yes, and their voter participation went from abysmal to almost 100%.

    Since we've got almost 1 out of every 2 people sitting home for the election, I think it's time for a swift kick in the pants on this.

  75. It's not an easy issue, I agree, and my ideas need more thought. Still, I think we can do a lot better than the current system, and right now (IMHO) the major parties have way too much money.

    If nothing else, somehow we need to disconnect, or shelter the MPs from the party apparatus, and reduce the power of the PM (over the MPs). A good start would be to have the caucus appoint the cabinet. But I better get back to work …

  76. Their vote share being larger than their share of fundraising is an argument for keeping the per-vote subsidy, as it means they are more beholden to the public at large — to ensuring their ideas have support of everybody, not just those who can donate.

  77. The Liberal party relies on those who can donate the most and uses their donations to win the votes of those who have very little interest in politics. I don't see that as an argument for keeping the vote subsidy. To the extent the subsidy discourages "strategic voting" and encourages people to vote for a party they actually support, I think it's a wonderful thing.

  78. We might need to keep some minimum level of campaign expense support for candidates from fringe parties, but this sounds like a completely reasonable way to go.

  79. Yes

  80. Understanding of statistics FAIL.

    Correlation does not imply causation. That is all.

  81. It's quite possible that it is the Bloc that has helped to make separatism irrelevant by providing a release valve for regional frustrations. The Bloc can't do squat to advance the separation of Quebec from Canada.

  82. Personally I don't like subsidizing political parties in any way, including a tax credit. I am glad it brought your wife out to vote! We definitely need more people involved.
    So now I know that your claim that “it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy” was based on your personal experience. No more. If you had evidence that she was the norm & not the exception I might be inclined change my opinion of the ‘vote subsidy'.

  83. Personally I don%E2%80%99t like subsidizing political parties in any way, including a tax credit. I am glad it brought your wife out to vote! We definitely need more people involved.
    So now I know that your claim that “it works to encourage people to become involved in the democracy” was based on your personal experience. No more. If you had evidence that she was the norm & not the exception I might be inclined change my opinion of the ‘vote subsidy%E2%80%99.

  84. What about the way the U.S. does it? On April 15 every year when they file their taxes, individuals can check off a box that indicates they wish to donate $1-2-3.00 to the party of their choice.

    The big negative on this is who the h*ll is in the mood to give even another buck to the government at tax time, lol!!!

  85. Even if that was the only person on earth who it encouraged to vote, the point would still stand.. it provided encouragement. This is also corroborated below by John D, so you now have two entirely separate anecdotes confirming it.

    Now, if you want to argue how much encouragement it provides, that's a separate argument, but to make it, you first have to concede that it does.

  86. Has their governance gotten any better for it though? This isn't a rhetorical question, as I'm honestly curious. As I mentioned, my opposition to mandatory voting is fairly weak — so if it can be shown there's an actual public benefit I'm certainly willing to be swayed.

  87. Except this does nothing to deal with the situations Adam describes above, nor does it provide the parties any incentive to deal with the issues being faced by people too poor to pay taxes/donate.

  88. Indeed, it's a very good question. How could you tell the difference?

    The only tangible difference would be that no voter could throw up their hands at a situation and say "it's not my fault, I didn't vote for those idiots". Everyone would have skin in the game, even if it's just a tiny bit.

  89. Indeed, it's a very good question. How could you tell the difference?

    The only tangible difference would be that no voter could throw up their hands at a situation and say "it's not my fault, I didn't vote for those idiots". Everyone would have skin in the game, even if it's just a tiny bit.

    • Typical good governance is measured by things like economic growth/social spending (this is obviously a highly subjective choice of dependent variable), or survey data on satisfaction with government/democracy/politics. You could also in this case use survey data on engagement (how often do you talk about politics? consume media about politics? etc.). Lastly, of course, you could just look to see if there were any effects on the distribution of votes before and after, i.e. did it systematically benefit or hurt certain parties, or certain ends of the political spectrum.

      • Indeed, but with the exception of the last choice, those are all subjective measurements. And the latter could change significantly depending on the timeframe one used, which would make the timeframe highly subjective.

  90. Typical good governance is measured by things like economic growth/social spending (this is obviously a highly subjective choice of dependent variable), or survey data on satisfaction with government/democracy/politics. You could also in this case use survey data on engagement (how often do you talk about politics? consume media about politics? etc.). Lastly, of course, you could just look to see if there were any effects on the distribution of votes before and after, i.e. did it systematically benefit or hurt certain parties, or certain ends of the political spectrum.

  91. Well, if we are going to have elections every two and half years, why not offer to give everyone the choice at the polling booth of either receiving 2.5 X 2= $5.00 on the spot or offering to give a 5 buck donation to the Party of choice.

    That is about as silly a proposal as Chapnik`s case that having a 2 dollar vote subsidy increases the likelihood of voter participation.

  92. Well, if we are going to have elections every two and half years, why not offer to give everyone the choice at the polling booth of either receiving 2.5 X 2= $5.00 on the spot or offering to give a 5 buck donation to the Party of choice.

    That is about as silly a proposal as Chapnik`s case that having a 2 dollar vote subsidy increases the likelihood of voter participation.

    • If by "about as silly" you mean to say "immeasurably more silly", then I have to agree.

  93. I will concede that it provided encouragement based on your personal experience corroborated below by John D. I am just not sure that is enough to change my opinion. It might make for an interesting poll question.

  94. I've voted in every election I've been eligible to vote in since I was 18. I've also scored 100% completion in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

  95. If by "about as silly" you mean to say "immeasurably more silly", then I have to agree.

  96. Indeed, but with the exception of the last choice, those are all subjective measurements. And the latter could change significantly depending on the timeframe one used, which would make the timeframe highly subjective.

  97. How would lower turnout make governance better? Unless there's some reason to believe that, you have to believe that increasing turnout at least does no harm.

  98. How would lower turnout make governance better? Unless there's some reason to believe that, you have to believe that increasing turnout at least does no harm.

  99. This has got to be the most pathetic justification imaginable of a citizen's contributions to the social fabric of a democracy.

    If the sole purpose you can think of for schlepping off to the school gym, waiting in line, fussing with the ballot and the pencil, and schlepping home, is the diversion of two bucks a year of the communal wealth towards the party of your choice, then you have a very miserable estimation of the worth of your own time. Just stay home.

  100. Personally, the only reason i bothered voting last time was the subsidy. The winner, whom I would never vote for, won by 20,000 votes, so it was nice that my vote meant something, somewhat.

  101. This has got to be the most pathetic justification imaginable of a citizen's contributions to the social fabric of a democracy.

    If the sole purpose you can think of for schlepping off to the school gym, waiting in line, fussing with the ballot and the pencil, and schlepping home, is the diversion of two bucks a year of the communal wealth towards the party of your choice, then you have a very miserable estimation of the worth of your own time. Just stay home.

  102. I think Chapnick's argument makes the most sense if you turn it around, and talk about how parties work in a vote subsidy world, as opposed to voters. I agree that a small subsidy isn't going to change the behavior of voters. However, it generates a big incentive for parties, which need cash to survive, to generate high turnout, even in safe or no-hope districts. In so doing, it forces parties to care about regions of the country that would otherwise be unimportant.

    Part of the problem with current rules, however, is the 21 million dollar ceiling on campaign spending. First, it makes fundraising (and the 2 dollar vote subsidy) less important, since parties can just borrow the money they need. Secondly, with a constrained ability to spend money, getting votes in marginal districts is going to trump any sort of fundraising advantage every time.

    Incidentally, I think axing the spending ceiling is something both the Liberals and Tories could agree on, whereas getting rid of the vote subsidy is something they can't.

  103. I think Chapnick's argument makes the most sense if you turn it around, and talk about how parties work in a vote subsidy world, as opposed to voters. I agree that a small subsidy isn't going to change the behavior of voters. However, it generates a big incentive for parties, which need cash to survive, to generate high turnout, even in safe or no-hope districts. In so doing, it forces parties to care about regions of the country that would otherwise be unimportant.

    Part of the problem with current rules, however, is the 21 million dollar ceiling on campaign spending. First, it makes fundraising (and the 2 dollar vote subsidy) less important, since parties can just borrow the money they need. Secondly, with a constrained ability to spend money, getting votes in marginal districts is going to trump any sort of fundraising advantage every time.

    Incidentally, I think axing the spending ceiling is something both the Liberals and Tories could agree on, whereas getting rid of the vote subsidy is something they can't.

    • I gotta disagree with you on that one hth—-the LPC is in such dire shape financially that they depend on a low spending cap in order to keep some semblance of financial management.

      It may be the only area where the Liberals are anxious to keep spending down.

      • In the short-term, it might be tough for the Liberals, but in the long-term it would pay off significantly because they can out-fundraise the parties of the left (NDP, Bloc and Greens), and reverse the past 7 years of vote-splitting. Lets look at the share of election spending by party in the 2008 election:

        CPC: 33%
        Liberal: 25%
        NDP: 29%
        Green: 5%
        Bloc: 8%

        If instead, party spending was based on 2009 fundraising results (and public funding), the Liberals would account for a much larger proportion of total spending. Obviously the parties could borrow money in an election, but presumably their credit limits would be a function of their ability to raise money:

        CPC: 43.2%
        LPC: 28.3%
        NDP: 17.6%
        Bloc: 7%
        Green: 4%

        In other words, in a no-ceiling world, the Tories would benefit the most, but the Liberals would also gain in their ability to control the airwaves during an election. By out-advertising the Bloc, Greens and NDP, moreover, they could help galvanize the Canadian left behind them – increasing their fundraising ability over the long haul.

  104. I gotta disagree with you on that one hth—-the LPC is in such dire shape financially that they depend on a low spending cap in order to keep some semblance of financial management.

    It may be the only area where the Liberals are anxious to keep spending down.

  105. If people had to vote then just maybe they would educate themselves and tune in to how their daily lives are affected by politics.

  106. That's how the republicans, I mean conservatives work.

  107. Thanks, FVerhoeven, that was an interesting read! I must say that I–shockingly–disagree with the claims about compulsory voting 'muddying' the policy discussion. The world has not ended in Australia, and while politics is never elegant it does not appear that theirs is in any way debased compared to ours.

    Is it really too much to ask for a voter to get out and vote? Do we turn away jurors because they're not adequately trained to make such decisions? I think we can make room in our democracy for a little compulsory voting.

  108. I do this with a bit of a chuckle, but these are the folks that we would be forcing to vote (obviously from the states, but we have them too . . .) You will get a laugh.
    http://i.imgur.com/cgCUT.jpg

  109. Dude, that image just gave me a fear of chickens. :D

    But I think we're putting voting on a bit of a pedestal; we're not asking them to run the country, we're simply asking them to figure out which candidate to put an 'X' next to. And it'll probably be the candidate whose hand they shook when they came to their door, which rewards the efforts of everyone…and really begins to blunt the impact of the television commercials.

    I mean, I'm a bit of a political animal, but I definitely felt my opinion change toward John Baird when I saw him canvassing my neighbourhood today. I really didn't expect to see him out there, shaking hands and running through his pitch to everyone on my street. I'm sure he influenced quite a few votes.

  110. i only posted that because my brother just posted it on facebook. It kinda seemed to fit.

    I am not saying I am against mandatory voting, I am just not sold on it. I just can't wrap my mind around the net benefit of it. Would the percentages stay the same? Would people figure the best tactics to 'get the x', which might not be good for the country. I guess I am just concerned that people who know nothing about politics would be forced to vote.

    Your comment about Baird drove it home for me. What if they do vote for the 'guy who shook their hand'? Does that give an advantage to the politicians who are not currently elected (they still have some duties to perform).

    Bottom line, I don't think that by being forced to vote, they would take a interest, so all in all, it seems like a moot point to me.

  111. Yeah, it's food for thought, either way, right.

    Imagine what a country like Canada would look like if the average voter would put a little bit of real thought into party policies and parties would actually have to speak to such general interest.

    It would mean we could finally rise above all of this nonesense we're seeing in this election.

    Canada has such great, great potential to unleash. And it is a matter of real participation by the voter.

    I know people are busy, but just reading up on things on a daily basis is not too much to ask for.

    I do blame the media a little bit too, for not wanting to engage the average voter into a real debate on issues. It seems to me that Canada is sometimes afraid to really discuss the issues. Somehow I always feel that the point of view and the person holding the views cannot be separated. But if someone holds a reasoned opinion, they should never be attacked on a personal level for holding such opinions. That's happening too much in Canada, methinks.

    A good debate should always be based on reasoned argument. That's the beauty of a good debate.

    Seems to me that the average voter has to understand the difference between taking the individual as a start-off point or taking the collective as the start-off point. All policies proposed come down to the basic fact of how we would like our societies to progress. And the right basically takes the individual as the start-off point, whereas the left takes the collective as the start-off point. But start-off points can be argued about reasonably. It really is a matter of how to get to that better society.

  112. In the short-term, it might be tough for the Liberals, but in the long-term it would pay off significantly because they can out-fundraise the parties of the left (NDP, Bloc and Greens), and reverse the past 7 years of vote-splitting. Lets look at the share of election spending by party in the 2008 election:

    CPC: 33%
    Liberal: 25%
    NDP: 29%
    Green: 5%
    Bloc: 8%

    If instead, party spending was based on 2009 fundraising results (and public funding), the Liberals would account for a much larger proportion of total spending. Obviously the parties could borrow money in an election, but presumably their credit limits would be a function of their ability to raise money:

    CPC: 43.2%
    LPC: 28.3%
    NDP: 17.6%
    Bloc: 7%
    Green: 4%

    In other words, in a no-ceiling world, the Tories would benefit the most, but the Liberals would also gain in their ability to control the airwaves during an election. By out-advertising the Bloc, Greens and NDP, moreover, they could help galvanize the Canadian left behind them – increasing their fundraising ability over the long haul.

Sign in to comment.