Paying for the Bloc

Taxpayers across Canada are paying, disproportionately, to fund a party dedicated to the country’s destruction


 

Even Chantal Hébert gets the odd thing wrong. Here she falls into a common trap on the subject of the per-vote subsidy and the Bloc Québécois:

According to federal Democratic Reform Minister Steven Fletcher, many Canadians are frustrated with the notion that their taxes are funding a sovereignist party. Given that the subsidy is based on a per-vote formula, that is a bogus argument, unworthy of Fletcher’s ministerial title.

The Quebecers who support the Bloc are taxpayers, with no less right to have the $1.95 subsidy tied to their vote channelled to the party of their choice.

The last part  is right. But the implication in the first — that  taxpayers at large are not funding the Bloc, because Bloc supporters are taxpayers and the subsidy is “per vote” — is flat wrong. The Quebecers who vote Bloc do indeed “channel” the subsidy to the party of their choice. But they don’t pay it. The money doesn’t come from them. It comes from general revenues.

These revenues come, disproportionately, from people with incomes above the national average. Quebecers’ incomes are, on average, below the national average, and if I’m not mistaken Bloc voters’ incomes are, on average, lower still. Which means, yes, there is an element of redistribution in the subsidy: taxpayers across Canada  are paying, disproportionately, to fund a party dedicated to the country’s destruction.


 

Paying for the Bloc

  1. Well done, Mr. Economist. Now tell us, what is the cost per Canadian of this subsidy?

    I'm sure Bev Oda''s limousine expenses are costing us just as much.

    What an abysmally picayune and petty post.

    • I guess you're one of those oh-so-hip, intellectual, boundlessly tolerant liberals. You need to get something straight. People that vote for the Bloc are voting for a party whose reason for existence is Quebec independence. The Bloc and the people that vote for them do not accept non Quebecers as fellow citizens. Are you a Quebecer? Are you a pur laine Quebecer? If not then you don't make the cut. Asking us non Quebecers to tolerate the presence of such a party in Ottawa is absurd, asking us to pay their expenses equally so. Now that we're at it, asking us to tolerate Duceppe as de-facto co-prime minister and the Bloc as a de-facto co-governing party in that coalition is obscene. Understand?

      • Most Quebecers who vote for the block do so because they feel the BQ best represents Quebec interests at the federal level and not necessarily because they "don't accept non-Quebecers as fellow citizens," or even want to split apart the country. Now before you tear my head off, it drives me bonkers that we have a party in Ottawa whose raison d'etre is to destroy the country, and further drives me crazy that most of their voters– and hence most of their subsidy comes from peope who– don't de facto support their ultimate goal. It's like the old fiscal conservative/social conservative divide. Many fiscal conservatives hold their nose and vote CPC in spite it's connection to religious nutcases, many hold their nose and vote Lib because of the same connection.

        • This is not true. There are some quebecers who vote BQ who are not sovereignists. But they are a minority of Bloq voters. I'd say 75% of Bloq voters are sovereignist. For this reason, minorities in Quebec are loathe to vote BQ. Sure, you can find a few exceptions, but that is the general rule.

          Secondly, there is no measurable number of "religious nutcases" in the CPC or Lib party, unless you count church-goers as "religious nutcases". Canada, compared to most countries, is very secular.

    • We need t amend the las about public funding for poltial partis when it is not in he Canadian intres, and the BLOC defiitelyhas noiterest in other Canaians.

      • Did you spill something sticky on your keyboard?

        • Maybe those were his dying words, and the name of the killer is somehow encoded in his cryptic message.

          • Perhaps his ISP charges by the letter?

  2. Wow… That's a slippery slope!!!

    When we start taking in account the earnings (or potential earnings) of segments of the Candian population in making arguments for or against party subsidies, we are in serious trouble.

    Andrew Coyne's argument is nothing but an exercise in semantics.

  3. Real of the Coyne returns but if this is the sort of stuff you'll be peddling then I think you need a bit more time away.

    • This is just the first taste. I imagine Harper's going to do it "without Quebec" in the next election and Coyne has been enlisted to "help out."

      I wonder what quid pro quo was?

      • Are you the same Anon who posted all those other comments today? It's hard to tell. Some of the comments made by "Anon" are quite decent, but others (like this one) are tedious and insipid.

        • I'm sorry you were forced to read it and respond to it.

          • Apology accepted.

  4. I agree with the essence of what Coyne's saying.

    If I can talk in baseball terms, a lot of fans are upset at Vernon Wells' salary. I think what Coyne is saying is that the big-money sponsors, season ticket holders, and field-level ticket buyers have earned more of a right to be upset than the folks who come on 2$ Tuesdays or buy tickets in the nose-bleed section.

    At least, I think that's what he is saying.

    • Yes, but you do realize that the implications and the dynamics behind a baseball club are vastly different than a democratic state.

    • a a rough translation i think it works. the hard work comes next. first notwithstanding that baseball doesn't actually work that way, it is a luxury, and it is prob generally expected and accepted that people's attachment and influence is differentiated on economic lines.

      Coyne is talking democracy. whether he, you or i like it or not the subsidy is part of the institutional structure of our democracy. it could be changed, but to the degree that Coyne/you/others want it partially applied along economic lines is striking.

      • I don't want it applied partially. I don't want it applied at all — not to the Bloc, not to any of the parties. My point (sigh) was not that the rich should have more say in how public funds are used, or whatever other bizarre construction certain readers want to put on the post. My point was simply that it's false to claim the Bloc is not being subsidized, on the grounds that Bloc voters are ponying up for the $1.95 per vote they send the party's way. They aren't.

        • Bloc voters are only ponying up $1.91 per vote. Non-Bloc voters are subsidizing the other four cents.

        • as a clarification the point of the Coyne/you/others was leaving open who actually supports the idea of selective application besides Fletcher.

          i know that in principle that you want it eliminated entirely from your posting at the time of the budget update and following fallout. but i also know that your post was not made it in isolation. the point (sigh) is that you were responding to Hebert who was responding to Fletcher who is actively shopping selective application. your argument gives his position further credence – intended or not. to the degree that you make no point to distinguish the intent of your post and that you point out (negatively) the redistributive nature of the Bloc's subsidy it is hardly surprising that folks will extrapolate.

        • as a clarification the point of the Coyne/you/others was leaving open who actually supports the idea of selective application besides Fletcher. apologies for any confusion and to the degree that you feel you have been unfairly maligned.

          i know that in principle that you want it eliminated entirely from your posting at the time of the budget update and following fallout. but i also know that your post was not made it in isolation. the point (sigh) is that you were responding to Hebert who was responding to Fletcher who is actively shopping selective application. your argument gives his position further credence – intended or not. to the degree that you make no point to distinguish the intent of your post and that you point out (negatively) the redistributive nature of the Bloc's subsidy it is hardly surprising that folks will extrapolate.

        • as a clarification the point of the Coyne/you/others was leaving open who actually supports the idea of selective application besides Fletcher. apologies for any confusion and to the degree that you feel you have been unfairly maligned.

          i know that as a matter of principle that you want it eliminated entirely from your posting at the time of the budget update and following fallout. but i also know that your post was not made it in isolation. the point (sigh) is that you were responding to Hebert who was responding to Fletcher who is actively shopping selective application. your argument gives his position further credence – intended or not. to the degree that you make no point to distinguish the intent of your post and that you point out (negatively) the redistributive nature of the Bloc's subsidy it is hardly surprising that folks will extrapolate.

  5. But Andrew you know that is only because of the fiscal imbalance (sarc off)

    While my preference is still for elimination I think one simple ammendment to the formula would server the purpose quite well:

    Multiply the current formula by (number of ridings the party fields candidates in/number of total risings in election)

    Right now a Bloc vote receives more for less. One assumes that the formula was meant to account for parties running national campaigns. So if you must provide a subsidy, have the subsidy reflect the costs, and committment, a little better.

  6. … and then you have angel's, dancing on the head of a pin.

  7. So people whose income is below the national average do not pay enough into general revenues to have their democratic wishes (however flawed) be considered legitimate?

    Or another way the 6-7 million-ish tax payers in province with below average incomes pay less total tax then say a province of a million with above average incomes? Really? The gap is that huge? Really?

    I do not think you thought this one through.

    • Oh, I suspect he thought it through as far as he wanted to.

    • Why should he think it trough? It's a bog!

      But, more seriously: the Conservatives know full well the Bloc is perfectly able to, uh, "work their treason on their own dime", as some of us like to say. What the Conservatives also know is that such reform would chiefly hurt the Liberals. So there you go: use the Bloc as the big, evil foe to defeat for the fate of the country and cut subsidies to your chief opponent. Tadaa!

    • I didn't say or suggest either of the things you suggest I have not thought through. I suggest you have not read through what I actually wrote…

  8. Eeek… Where I wrote: "It's a bog!" I, of course, meant "It's a blog!"

    Oh well…

    • Monsieur Coyne is making a bit of a swampy argument so maybe bog is more appropriate…..

    • i think you nailed it with this one is a bog, as per Norton's post.

  9. The timing of this posting couldn't have come at a more coincidental time for me. I have just reviewed the latest EKOS poll and if I understood the numbers correctly, the Bloc are the choice of almost half of all those polled who have only high school or lower. Which I found most surprising because I had assumed that sovereignty was an issue more for the Bourgeois.

    Anyways, you are correct that Ms. Hébert's argument was sound. You are also correct that taxpayers across Canada are paying, disproportionately, to fund a party dedicated to the country's destruction. However, I would like to point out that bringing up the income disparities between non-Quebecers and Quebecers, and Bloc supporters and non-Bloc supporters, you are fuelling the perception many have of you as being "anti-Quebec". I'm not suggesting that you are anti-Quebec, but it would make it easier for me and my home life. My Quebecois spouse has taken issue with me enjoying your CBC commentary and Maclean's columns.

  10. Everyone is equal, unless I make more money than you.

  11. I don't think Coyne has fully thought through his implication that progressive tax rates should entitle the rich to more rights. Its a weak article at best.

    A more notable point in the Hébert article is that, the Bloquistes have largely turned out to be model parliamentarians

    • Well, maybe so, but don't be fooled, Ed; the bloquistes are "dedicated to the country's destruction". So if it's bad for them, it must be good for Canada.

      Again, I guess we are supposed to be oblivious to the fact that what the Conservatives are proposing is bad for the Liberals, not for the Bloc.

      • I think the Bloc, based on their track record, can not be assumed to be interested in the country's destruction. There are, as always, interested in serving Quebec's interests. The have done almost nothing to campaign for separatism and have been very active in promoting Quebec's interest in federalism.

        I agree on the point about the Liberals being the primary target. I think the per vote funding is good policy, the only troubling part is that a large majority of Canadians are against it.

      • I think the Bloc, based on their track record, can not be assumed to be interested in the country's destruction. They are, as always, interested in serving Quebec's interests. The have done almost nothing to campaign for separatism and have been very active in promoting Quebec's interest in federalism.

        I agree on the point about the Liberals being the primary target. I think the per vote funding is good policy, the only troubling part is that a large majority of Canadians are against it.

    • "… progressive tax rates should entitle the rich to more rights…"

      Where do I say this? Where do I imply it? How does it follow from anything I actually said? The point of the post was whether Bloc voters actually pay for the subsidy their party receives. They don't. That's it.

      Yeesh.

      • You took issue with the right of Canadians to channel money proportionate to their vote choice rather than by the amount they paid in taxes. Correct?

    • Not really Ed….

      Model Parliamentarians should be working for the good of the WHOLE country……..not the exclusive interests of a select group composed mainly of bigots, socialists, and the under-educated.

      • Model parliamentarian should be working in the interests of those people they represent. That is democracy.

      • Model parliamentarians should be working in the interests of those people they represent. That is democracy.

  12. Like aother commenters, I think AC is off base with this argument. Especially when you consider he is an outspoken proponent of proportional representation.

    His argument might have more weight if political parties were subsidized according to the number of seats they have. The logic is a bit rusty…

  13. Welcome back, Mr. Coyne.

    If the Bloc voters' average income was higher than the Canadian average, would this invalidate your argument about proportionality?

    The "element of redistribution" seems trivial. It probably amounts to a few hundred thousand dollars. By and large, most of the Bloc's per-vote subsidy could be said to come from Canadian taxpayers who vote for the Bloc. Ms. Hébert is correct, as she so often is.

    • The whole argument is bogus.

      There is no "channeling" of votes toward any particular party; the subsidies come from general revenue, and it must be presumed that many who vote for this or that party, pay no taxes at all.

      The subsidizing of private entities – for this is what political parties are – to compete for votes in Parliament is an outrage and has no place in a democracy. Why Bev Oda's transportation keeps being brought into it is beyond me – unless of course the people saying have a problem with "those kind of people" riding limos (which I suspect is the case).

      The real issue, of course, is that the NDP, bloc and Greens are terrified that if their subsidies are removed, they will collapse like a deck of cards bec. the public at large does not agree with what their programme.

      Remove the subsidies now.

  14. …and Andrew Coyne makes his triumphant return. I have to disagree with you on this one though. A bit too much of six degrees of separation for my liking. I don't have any issue with the funding the BQ gets, it's based on the votes they get in their own province – yeah the fact there's a separatist party in our federal legislature kinda irks me too, but I'm used to it (particularly since I don't remember a time they weren't there).

  15. Let me add to the near-complete dissagreement with AC.

    The per vote subsidy is nothing compared with the tax breaks on donations and the apportioning of seats. Each seat a party receives means that many more party faithful are hired to work the offices in Ottawa and back home. Each seat gives more money for silly 10% flyers. Each seat means an MP is paid. Etc, etc… So, the system we have gives the BQ tens of millions of dollars, of which $2 Million is through this subsidy. Whereas, for the Greens, they only received just under $2 Million.

    Take it away and you take away the only proportionally alloted funding. Every other piece of funding is tied to the archaic system that AC apparently opposes.

    And, seriously, how much less does the average BQ voter earn? 10% less than average? So, you are fighting for $200,000? I.E. you are trying to save the average Canadian 2/3 of a cent.

  16. I think I am willing to foot the insanely tiny amount that I pay to the Bloc because they stir the Parlimentary Pot and keep the ruling party on its toes. They can be nuts, but if you've ever sat in at question period, it's quite amusing. And I think that many Quebecois support the Bloc and there ends their sovereignty dreams. It's a token move for many in the sovereign movement. Fighting their existence is not worth it. It would just infuriate Quebec and getting them up in arms rarely turns out well for the rest of the country.

  17. "These revenues come, disproportionately, from people with incomes above the national average. Quebecers' incomes are, on average, below the national average, and if I'm not mistaken Bloc voters' incomes are, on average, lower still."

    Wait a minute…

    Is Coyne suggesting that Canadians with a lower income shouldn't have a right to democratic representation? I mean… You do understand that, separatist or not, the BQ MPs were democratically elected by a sizeable portion of voters.

    I want to give Coyne the benefit of the doubt on this but… huh?!?!

    • "Is Coyne suggesting that Canadians with a lower income shouldn't have a right to democratic representation?"

      Um, no. Next question?

  18. Go Andrew. Maybe we should just, like y'know, restrict voting to wealthy male landowners or something. Democracy is so inconvenient.

  19. Another thing. Andrew, you've been the most vocal advocate of P.R. in Cdn media. I agree with you. But it ain't gonna happen – not because it's bad, but because there are too many roadblocks.

    But there are other ways to level the political playing field.- and that's by changing the nature of the profit motive that drives our system.

    So eliminate all tax deductibility for political donations, then double the per-vote subsidy, while incorporating a version of the formula proposed by Stephen above: multiply the subsidy by [# candidates fielded / (106 +9 ridings, so that no party can get full value of the subsidy while running candidates in only one province)].

    Then you mandate 6 nationally broadcast debates during elections as a condition for networks or whatever obtaining CRTC licenses. Then you lower the local and national election ad spending limits by 50%, and you introduce a cap on ad spending during non-campaign periods.

    You want to reform democracy? Stop making parties compete for money, and start making them compete for votes. You want to get rid of the Bloc? Beat them in an election.

    • But why shouldnt parties or candidates also compete for resources. Money is only one resource, volunteers, smart people, creative ad guys, good candidates are also resources. Why is money such a unique resource that parties shoudlnt compete for it….on its own it means nothing and it is used to obtain other resources that actually do things.

      In the extreme should we be ensuring same numbers of signs, quality of strategists etc?

      I would argue that some level of raising funding, just like otaining volunteers forces parties to see if their core product attracts what it needs, to carry forward. Money can be corrupting, especially when doled in large sums by few people, but then again so would supply of volunteers (see union influence on the NDP)

      Make them compete to a reasonable level. It also becomes inforamtion that voters use, party stalwarts use internally etc to judge the effectoveness of a party on translating its ideas into action. Cant orgainze your own party = probably cant run a government.

      • I don't advovate preventing political parties from competing for money. I advocate eliminating the preferential treatment of political parties with respect to the treatment of political donations versus charitable donations in the tax code. In fact I don't see why political donations should be eligible for any given any tax emption at all. $10K delivered by a local union activist or a church community organizer is just as potentiallly corrupting as $10K delivered by a corporate bag man.

        According to the Hill Times report this morning the Tories are on track to raise over $15 million this year; the Libs are on track for $10 million this year and are targetting $25 million in fundraising next year; the NDP gloated last fall about how, thanks to enhanced fundraising, they were able to spend to the limit during the election. This would all be great news if it were happening alongside greater engagement of citizens in the federal political process. But it's not.

    • Yes "andy", that's a real `simple' way of reforming the Parliamentary system.

      Here's an actual simple solution: eliminate the subsidy, and let the Greens, NDP, bloc and all the other fringe parties come up with policies and programmes that people will support with their tax funds – voluntarily – not involuntarily, as under the subsidized vote system.

      • My goals are different from yours, Wayne Whig. You want to raise the threshold for playing in the political arena, make it harder for "fringe" parties to compete with "mainstream" parties. I don't care about that. I want the parties to value votes more.

        I'll also point out, as others have previously, the Bloc predates the current party funding system by 10 years, the NDP by 50. The Grits and Tories have spent years (and millions) trying to out-spend, out-strategize, and out-organize them into political oblivion. It hasn't worked. And instead of trying to understand why, you're proposing that we re-jig the rules to make it easier for the big parties to out-spend, out-strategize, and out-organize – when we've already proved that won;'t make a difference to the outcome.

        Sun Tzu said that war is a moral contest. The problem with our politics is that all sides treats politics as war but ignore the moral arguments in play.

  20. If the rest of Canada wants to do something about the Bloc, we should have the guts to do so directly. None of this starve them out nonsense, which is both an awkward and childish approach.

    Ban any form of federal funding or party status to organizations that advocate separatist goals. Explain that treasonous intents (and if breaking up the nation doesn't count as treason, I'm not sure what does) are not a justifiable contribution to Canadian democracy.

    Think of it as a logical extension of the clarity act. All we ask is that federal parties be clear in their minimal support for maintaining the federation. Otherwise, they can support themselves.

    I know this will never happen, but it would be honest. Tinkering with back door strategies is as disingenuous as the whole 'sovereignty association' BS. If we want the Bloc gone, then lets be straightforward about it.

  21. I agree whole-heartedly with Coyne, who once again is a voice of reason. Good points Coyne. One more in a long list of important reasons to ditch the vote subsidy.

  22. Are you also in favour of ditching the 75% tax credit subsidy?

    • I'm not sure which subsidy you are talking about. Are you talking about the tax credit for political donations? I don't think it is 75%.

      Anyway, yes, I am certainly in favour of ditching that too. Funding for poltiical parties should be decoupled from taxes and decoupled from voting.

      • Yes, that is the subsidy to which I was referring.

        And, I also wasn't totally sure about the %….perhaps that number is my provincial rate or I read it somewhere else. In any case I can't think of any downsides to eliminating those tax credits.

        • Wow. 75% of the first $372/$400. That is quite a large subsidy.

          I don't like it, at all. Parties have rigged the tax rules to fill their own coffers. Donations should be donations, period. They should not result from schemes to siphon money from tax payers.

  23. The theory behind this tempest in a teapot is that the $3M Bloc subsidy is preventing national parties from winning a majority in parliament.. That is less than 10 cents per capita. Boy are we ever cheap. A measly $3 M can somehow circumvent the will of the people. Only in canada you say.

    As for SeanStok's argument, the likely outcome of banning the Bloc would be that they would sweep all 75 Quebec seats and those seats would sit empty in Ottawa. Just like the IRA in Westminster in 1919. Brilliant idea , why not just ban Quebec representation in ottawa while youre at it.

    • First off, I said *if* we want to do something about the Bloc. And consideration of possible outcomes should be a big part of that.

      Second, I would still find it preferable to have all cards on the table, as opposed to this prolonged tantrum Quebec has engaged in,. for decades now. It's hurting the federal governance of the nation, it's creating a *de facto* separation of Quebec in certain respects, and it undermines our ability to act as a cohesive whole. Making a treasonous party illegal is not the same thing as banning Quebec representation, and it's outlandish to suggest that. I would simply suggest that they've been able to hold both ends of the stick for too long now. Time for the good voters of Quebec to grow up and understand that extreme positions (like breaking up a country) come with consequences.

      • "Second, I would still find it preferable to have all cards on the table, as opposed to this prolonged tantrum Quebec has engaged in,. for decades now. It's hurting the federal governance of the nation, it's creating a *de facto* separation of Quebec in certain respects, and it undermines our ability to act as a cohesive whole."

        Why making it specific to Quebec? What you describe can be said of several provinces, starting with Newfoundland and you can add the separatists in Alberta too.

        To describe the Quebec issue as a "tantrum" is to be wilfully ignorant of this country's history and it plays into the hands of the Quebec Sovereignists.

        This here is the very reason why Reformists will NEVER take Quebec.

        • was referring to Quebec, because the discussion surrounding federal funding has centred on the "problem" of the Bloc. I'm not aware of any other federal parties advocating for the separation of a region that receive per vote subsidies. Correct me if I'm wrong on that. And the rules I would suggest we enact – *if* everyone sees the Bloc as that big a problem – are generic in nature, and would not be a Quebec-only act.

          You wrote: "To describe the Quebec issue as a "tantrum" is to be wilfully ignorant of this country's history and it plays into the hands of the Quebec Sovereignists" Which part of history am I willfully ignorant of? Please enlighten me, because from where I sit Quebec has enjoyed an extremely privileged position in the federation – starting with the outcome of the initial British victory over the French.

          Playing into the hands of the sovereignists? How is the status quo not doing that?

          • Sean, I think you are simplifying the situation, probably out of a frustration that we can't all just get along, despite considerable goodwill toward Quebec.

            Let me offer up a ridiculously brief history of Quebec and Canada.
            1763 Treaty of Paris – France cedes control of Upper Canada to Britain
            1867 Confederation – Quebec folded into Canada by Britain
            1982 Patriation of Constitution – Quebec does not ratify
            1990 Meech Lake Accord fails

            Of course the purpose of the Charlottetown Accord was to get Quebec to sign off on the Constitution, the only province that never has. The ROC generally refuses to see this as a legitimate concern. Leading to:

            1991 Founding of Bloc Quebecois

            As long as ROC fails to see the legitimate concern, the Bloc is likely to be the predominant federal party in Quebec. Minorities often recognize the value in uniting behind a strong voice. For English Canada to discount that as a 'prolonged tantrum' is really patronizing. The terrifying aspect is that any reasonable examination of a Constitutional amendment that Quebec would sign off on, will recognize that the Charlottetown Accord was about as good an agreement as you could hope for in a negotiated agreement. So its difficult to imagine any resolution to the matter in the foreseeable future.

          • Sean, I think you are simplifying the situation, probably out of a frustration that we can't all just get along, despite considerable goodwill toward Quebec.

            Let me offer up a ridiculously brief history of Quebec and Canada.
            1763 Treaty of Paris – France cedes control of Upper Canada to Britain
            1867 Confederation – Quebec folded into Canada by Britain
            1982 Patriation of Constitution – Quebec does not ratify
            1990 Meech Lake Accord fails

            Of course the purpose of the Meech Lake Accord was to get Quebec to sign off on the Constitution, the only province that never has. The ROC generally refuses to see this as a legitimate concern. Leading to:

            1991 Founding of Bloc Quebecois

            As long as ROC fails to see the legitimate concern, the Bloc is likely to be the predominant federal party in Quebec. Minorities often recognize the value in uniting behind a strong voice. For English Canada to discount that as a 'prolonged tantrum' is really patronizing. The terrifying aspect is that any reasonable examination of a Constitutional amendment that Quebec would sign off on, will recognize that the Charlottetown Accord was about as good an agreement as you could hope for in a negotiated agreement. So its difficult to imagine any resolution to the matter in the foreseeable future.

          • Since Ed did most of the work for me, I'll just ad this…

            "Playing into the hands of the sovereignists? How is the status quo not doing that? "

            Have you checked the polling numbers on sovereignity lately? I'd say the status quo is doing wonders for the unity of this country.

          • Your points are both well taken, though I fail to see the country as unified when the one province who hasn't signed the constitution sends separatist representatives to Ottawa. And I prefer not to have a country that owes its stability to the whim of how Quebecers feel about things when they wake up in the morning. But I certainly am not so simplistic about things as to not account for what PJ and Ed are noting.

            I may have directed too much focus on Quebec, when in fact my initial concern was with using indirect means to take on the Bloc. You have both identified some very real potential for fallout, which ought to give folks pause. But I think people are mistaken if these sorts of ploys aren't going to inflame things just as easily, and if we're going down that road I'd rather we be above board and honest about things. From both sides.

          • I agree 100% with your sentiment, but I'm not so sure about the approach.

  24. Third, my position is equally directed to those who want tinker with funding formulas to starve out the Bloc. It's a weasel approach to things. *If* enough people see the Bloc as a problem, then we should be prepared to do something direct about it, and live the consequences. Time for the ROC to grow up, in that respect, and realize that hoping a problem will go away doesn't usually work.

  25. Third, my position is equally directed to those who want tinker with funding formulas to starve out the Bloc. It's a weasel approach to things. *If* enough people see the Bloc as a problem, then we should be prepared to do something direct about it, and live with the consequences. Time for the ROC to grow up, in that respect, and realize that hoping a problem will go away doesn't usually work.

  26. This is all a big smokescreen. This sudden push for a ban on BQ public funding is aimed at the Liberals. Harper and his cronies know full well that the Bloc can and would survive without that money.

    They are after the LPC and are trying to corner them on this issue.

  27. Andrew, Andrew, Andrew. ALL public expenditures amount to redistribution. Often far more egregious (although certainly less treasonous, depending on your perspective) than this example.

    This is not the correct argument against the per-vote subsidy. The insanity of "free money" for the undeserving is the argument against the per-vote subsidy. Kill it for all. Don't just kill it for one.

    • "Kill it for all. Don't just kill it for one."

      That's actually my point. Thank you.

      • Bit of a roundabout drive you took there, if that was your point.

        • Well, Sean, it is summer, after all. Sometimes the scenic route turns out to be worth the detour, sometimes not.

          • lol!

            And he does have that fancy new car.

  28. And Coyne says he's not a gadfly….

  29. If the rest of Canada wants to do something about the Bloc, we should have the guts to do so directly.

    Ban any form of federal funding or party status to organizations that advocate separatist goals. Explain that treasonous intents (and if breaking up the nation doesn't count as treason, I'm not sure what does) are not a justifiable contribution to Canadian democracy.

    Think of it as a logical extension of the clarity act. All we ask is that federal parties be clear in their minimal support for maintaining the federation. Otherwise, they can support themselves.

    I know this will never happen, but it would be honest. Tinkering with back door strategies is as disingenuous as the whole 'sovereignty association' BS. If we want the Bloc gone, then let's be straightforward about it.

  30. "Which means, yes, there is an element of redistribution in the subsidy: taxpayers across Canada are paying, disproportionately, to fund a party dedicated to the country's destruction."

    And another thing. While I oppose the BQ's separatist agenda, to suggest that they are dedicated to the destruction of Canada is outright hogwash. We are not the Balkans. To say this is to willfully ignore Quebec's history and how Canada came to be as a nation. This country is as decentralized as it gets and there is a reason for that.

    Rightly or wrongly, some Quebecers want their own status and a EU-like union with the rest of Canada. Fortunately, they are a clear minority. Having said that, if Harper (and Coyne) continue with this offensive talk, they may become a majority in the near future.

    • Canada is supposed to be a democracy but here we are being forced to contribute to political parties that we do not approve of. Get rid of the political contribution regulation! Let me choose who my money goes to!

  31. This whole issue is totally irrelevant. Quebec, in reality, separated a long time ago. It has always had it's separate income tax collection, it's own version of the CPP (better managed), it's own immigration department, functionaly consulates (business offices) around the world and can now represent itself at some UN functions. It's language laws are illegal per the Canadian constution, which it never signed. It's laws re choice of schools for ones children would likely be shot down under Canadian laws. One of the reasons Quebec's average incomes are lower is because of the impediments to business and labour mobility these laws create. The impact of the lower incomes on the Bloc subsidy is miniscule compared to the impact on transfer payments. Transfer payments are the only reason left for Quebecers to continue the pretense of being Canadian. It's time we give them the Royal 22nd, an icebraker and be done with it. They could survive very well. or not, but we would be better off.

    • I am a Quebecer and I agree with you. In fact, therefore, instead of working for Canada's destruction, the Bloc is working for the building of new and improved Canada. Good point.

      As for me, I think Quebec would also be better off without these constant mean spirited attacks by people like AC. As Gilles Duceppe often points out, once Quebec beomes independent, it wants to have the best possible relationship with the rest of Canada. In fact, today Quebec has more free trade with the State of New York than with the Province of Ontario. Is this normal in a supposedly united country?

      • I grew up in Quebec and do still love it's culture and the "joie de vie" of it's people. I also believe thet Quebec would do quite well under it's own flag. Canada would be saving biooions just on the subsidies given to Bombardier and other Quebec business in the hope of getting a few votes for the governing party. I also think Canada would have better trade if Quebec was part of NAFTA. rather than a province.

  32. Funding received by the Bloc is peanuts compared to the cost to Canada of the Bloc-inspired suboptimal socialist legislation being pushed down the throats of all the rest of Canadians who love this country and want to stay in it unlike Mr Duceppe and his fellow travelers. Only in Canada would a group of secessionists be allowed to vote and influence the legislation of a country that they don't wan't to be a part of. This may ba a good example of Canadian tolerance but if PT Barnum were alive today he might modify his famous statement to say "there's a Canadian born every minute"., and to the rest of the world it certianly seems that tolerance has crossed the line into stupidity.

  33. I'd sooner see no funding for the parties, and few-if-any tax credits for donations, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I'll probably never get.

    But *if* we're going to be stuck with public funding for the parties, here's an off-the-top-of-my-head alternative idea: That $1.95 a vote that each party gets can be replaced with a "subsidy" of $1.95 (or whatever figure is set by law) that is allocated by you, once a year, on your income tax return. You have the option of ticking "none of the above", in which case your buck-ninety-five-or-whatever goes to Elections Canada to help them run the show (assuming that we want each Canadian to support the political process in *some* way with their tax dollars.

    Not my preferred option, but (arguably) better than the status quo.

    • You are really naive. Parties need money to function and for elections. If public funding is abolished or made dependent on each taxpayer's acceptance, which is more or less the same thing, then who would finance the parties? Do you want to go to the old regime when corporations did the financing and then essentially controlled the government policies? The money given by the corporations was, in any event, paid by all of us through the purchase of their products or services.

      To me the best thing that Jean Chretien did was to abolish corporate financing of political parties, replacing it with public funding.

      • Well, I've been called worse than naive before.

        But if you read what I'm suggesting, there still would be public funding of parties, although in my scenario, one would have the option of sending his or her money to Elections Canada instead. I'm not suggesting that one be allowed to opt out entirely. The difference between the status quo and my plan is that you, and everyone else who files a tax return, would be able to decide on an annual basis who gets the annual subsidy.

        As for your question as to "who would finance the parties", my preferred option would be, individual Canadians. If you, as with any other Canadian, want to donate to the NDP, the Conservatives, or the Marxist-Leninists, go right ahead and do so. (I'd sooner it be done without the tax credit rigamarole, and that the tax code be simplified as a result, but if wishes were fishes….) We don't have to let the big bad corporations (or unions) back into the donation game to accomplish that.

        (part 2 follows)

  34. I am from the West and am a former PC. At first loathed the Bloc, however I find them to be one of the only honest parties in federal politics at the moment. If the Bloc ran a candidate in my riding I would vote for them. At least when they fight for Quebec and win we all get the same new rights. I do resent funding the Greens , Liberals and even the rich old farmers who hate paying taxes Reform/Conservative Party. And leaning right of center, I can't bear to vote NDP. The Bloc make a fine opposition party as they keep everyone else as honest as they can.

  35. A serious question.

    Say a Quebecker moves to Alberta and works in the oilpatch. His provincial taxes are paid to Alberta, and figure into the equalization program. Are Quebec taxpayers not subsidizing Albertans by educating this individual?

    Say Celine Dion works in Vegas and pulls in $45 million per year, but resides there. So she pays Can Fed income tax, but not Provincial (I assume this is how the tax laws work). Assuming a 20% marginal Can Fed tax, she is individually paying $9 million to the Fed coffers, enough to individually fund the Bloc for a number of years.

    How is my analysis any less valid than AC's?

  36. A serious question.

    Say a Quebecker moves to Alberta and works in the oilpatch. His provincial taxes are paid to Alberta, and figure into the equalization program. Are Quebec taxpayers not subsidizing Albertans by educating this individual?

    Say Celine Dion works in Vegas and pulls in $45 million per year, but resides there. So she pays Can Fed income tax, but not Provincial (I assume this is how the tax laws work). Assuming a 20% marginal Can Fed tax, she is individually paying $9 million to the Fed coffers, enough to individually fund the Bloc for a number of years.

    How is my analysis any less valid than AC's?

    • Because you're trying to earmark where the funds come from, which was the same mistake Chantal made. Funds from general revenues come from taxpayers at large, not from any one individual or group.
      You can, however, earmark where the funds go to: in this case, the Bloc Quebecois. And you can observe that "taxpayers at large" and "Bloc Quebecois voters" are not one and the same. Which is what I did.

      • I understand the point you're making. It's a bit of a hair splitter.

        But, I'm not sure that's how budgets are fine tuned (ie general revenue is spent/allocated).

        Others, no doubt, have the sausage making details. But, let's assume that each fiscal year, the gov't has fixed costs it has no control over (health care transfers, paying the salaries of its employees, etc) and then once those costs are removed from the revenue stream – you eventually get into the discretionary spending and/or tax cuts.

        So, if one part of the economy is really outperforming (Alberta's oil patch of late) and the Fed coffers are overflowing as a result of corporate and individual income taxes, GST revenue, moreso than in the past (assuming all other provinces perform as historically), would it not be fair to suggest that the Alberta windfall allowed purchase of military equipment, cutting GST, etc etc.?

        I will admit that I'm once again " trying to earmark where the funds come from" but in this example I can with some justification, in my mind at least.

        • Similar cause and effect:

          As potash falls, Saskatchewan tightens purse strings

          Marking a drastic turn in the province's world-beating fortunes, the government of Saskatchewan announced yesterday it will divert over $700-million from construction projects, Crown corporations and its rainy-day fund in a bid to stanch the $1-billion drain of plummeting potash revenue…

          http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/as-p

          The bottom line: it's a complex issue, and not as simple as many suggest, from both sides of the argument.

  37. The Bloc is a legitimate protest party that, for the most part, speak French and are restricted to one province. Reform was a legitimate protest party that spoke / speak English and, given the chance would likely favour statehood with the neighbour. The greater evil in Canada is not the protest parties but rather the institutionalized inequalities of the federal electoral system where a vote in PEI carries three times the weight of a vote in British Columbia. This is further magnified by appointed representation in the Senate. If the Canadian will cannot address the inequalities at the federal level, then possibly the land will break up into its component parts long before the Bloc will get us there. A sad thought.

  38. The way I see it this is two issues. The first that I object to is the waste of my tax money. Yes it is only a couple of bucks plus a couple more to administer the waste but a hundred or so of these "couple of bucks" programs soon adds up to serious coin.
    The second is objection , and probably the more important one is being forced to donate money to a political party that I do not support nor want in power. This in the same as being forced to donate money to a church not of your choice.

  39. the more important one is being forced to donate money to a political party that I do not support nor want in power.

    Then don't vote for them and then they won't get your money.

    • There you go again: yes they will. They will get your money if someone else votes for them.

      • My assumption is that each yr the Fed gov't sets aside a pot of money for its eligible voters. And this money is distributed to the parties according to how many votes a particular party had received.

        With all due respect – you are making the same mistake you claim Chantal makes. You are suggesting that this pot of money comes disproportionatly from the ROC SIMPLy due to where they live and pay provincial taxes, and where companies are headquartered. For reasons outlined above, this is too simplistic, in my opinion.

      • Same argument, but on a personal note. In the 2006 election, I was apathetic to all of the mainstream parties, and rather than stay at home, I took the time to register and vote for the GPC not only as a protest vote, but because they would receive $1.75 per year, accordingly, to further their unique message (back when Jim harris was Leader).

        In my mind, and I'm sure in many others, there was an implicit contract with the gov't. Pay your taxes, register your vote, vote and we will provide your party of your choice $1.75 per year (now $1.95). As far as I'm concerned, of the taxes I pay, that $1.75 comes off the top, before any comingling of general revenue. And if I'd rather not support any party or any particular one, I don't give them the subsidy.

        Now, one could also argue that the GPC is being subsidized by big business, higher income people (I suspect the overall demographics of the GPC are not unlike your depiction of the Bloc – younger and non mainstream type voters, though changing) polluters etc. But, I think the other argument is just as valid.

  40. Ah, it just wouldn’t be a Coyne blog without that well-worn whinge about “redistributionary” taxes.

    • I'm actually in favour of redistributionary taxes, if by redistribution you mean "from rich to poor." I'm just not in favour of redistribution from east to west, or city to country, or industry to industry, or political party to political party, or the countless other ways in which we are constantly trying to enlist the state to pick each other's pockets…

  41. (part 2)

    In fact, that is my preferred option – let the parties be funded by individuals who want to fund them and who are willing to spend their own money to do so, sans gimmicks. And yes, you can keep the donation limits & disclosure rules if you'd like, just to make sure that some northern version of Boss Hogg isn't kicking in too much dough on the sly.

    But *if* we're going to have taxes processed into the parties' bank accounts, then I like my idea better than what we have now.

  42. Here's a simple solution…don't vote! I could not care less who gets in federally now as they have no impact on my life in any way, shape or form other than taxes. The federal government and all of it's institutions are a colossal waste of money. All I now care about is whether my garbage is picked up, my streets cleaned and water/sewer work. All local services provided by property taxes. The federal government has grown irrelevant to anyone but big business and welfare users.

    • You are very wrong, because it is the Feds that take most of our money and spend it on stupid things like the war in Afghanistan which Harper himself acknowledged cannot be won. It is the feds that bail out American bankrupt companies like GM with billions of our dollars, putting us, our children and grandchildren into debt for decades to come. If we don't vote, we let a small number of well organised party hacks do whatever they want with our future wellbeing.

      • I truly hope that voter turnout falls to the lowest level in the world and laws are enacted to force everyone to vote. Like in Australia. Then all of a sudden when the winning party sees very large and scary numbers going to the facists and even the communists the conventional parties start to listen to the majority and to behave appropriately. Then true democracy happens. As it is now our government only listens to the well organized groups who lobby them. Our western governments use debt as a means to cotrol the general population. This is their only means of mass intimidation of an educated populus. I am no anarchist, but we DO NOT NEED a federal level of government as they supply absolutely nothing I require. They only add another level of bureaucracy to provincially supplied services.

  43. "The money doesn't come from them. It comes from general revenues."

    Great line. Please keep it in store for the next time Dalton McGuinty or Ed Stelmach is whining about Equalization payments.

    To the matter at hand, however, wasn't this question settled by the SCC back in 2003? (see: Figuero v. Canada, [2003] 1 S.C.R. 912)