What does this mean?


“This means war.”

Or so says Pat Martin about the government’s plan to cut the per vote taxpayer subsidy for political parties.

Key graph from CP’s report. “But proportional to revenues raised last year, the taxpayer subsidy represents 37 per cent of the totals raised by the Tories. That’s far less than the 63 per cent chop for Liberal coffers, 86 per cent for the Bloc and 57 per cent for the NDP. The Greens stand to lose 65 per cent of total revenues.”

Here is Hansard for the afternoon of February 11, 2003, when Jean Chretien formally introduced the legislation in question (which was paired with new restrictions on political donations). The Prime Minister was followed quickly by a reply from the leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition.

The short version (though you’re encouraged to read the long version).

Chretien: “Some have suggested that the subsidy to a political party means that an individual’s tax dollars may go to a party that he or she disagrees with. The reality is that the $1.50 a year goes to the party that person voted for in the previous election. If someone changes his or her mind after an election, if someone realizes he or she made a mistake, for example by voting for the Canadian Alliance, the $1.50 per year still adds up to a total of $6 over the four years. That person can make up for his or her mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. It could happen to somebody who voted Liberal too, but not many because we are still doing quite well.”

Harper: “Obviously, the biggest beneficiary is the Liberals and they will benefit regardless of how people’s views of them may change in their performance as a governing party. Admittedly, the Canadian Alliance stands to benefit financially from the allowance. We will benefit especially because this party does not rely heavily on donations from corporations, unions and other large donors. However the principal beneficiary will be the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberals could not exist without an alternative source of funding, guaranteed taxpayer funding, if corporate donations were severally limited. Whereas the Canadian Alliance has shown it can and would continue to survive.”

The legislation was passed (Yeas 172, Nays 62) after final debate on June 11 of that same year.


What does this mean?

  1. Up until now I’ve resisted the idea of a Liberal-Bloc-NDP coalition government but if Harper tries to push this attack on our democracy through Parliament then I think the 3 opposition parties need to put their differences aside and send him packing.

  2. Surely, this will bring Coyne back to the Tory fold.

  3. What a Machiavellian move.

    I recall hearing somewhere once that when Chretien lured Charest away from the Tories to lead the Quebec Liberals, his motivation was not to “save Canada”, but to destroy the PC party in Quebec for a generation.

    The Liberals are about to learn that payback’s a bitch. I hope they still have that bag of hammers around, they may need to scalp it on eBay.

  4. OK, Mr. McLelland, you are now misusing “attack on democracy” in two separate comment threads. A sense of perspective, please.

    It is an attack on democracy when supporters (and-or elected members!) of an opposition party are rounded up and shot, or “disappeared,” or made to suffer discriminatory sanction. See Zimbabwe, and many other locations.

    It is an attack on democracy when the governing regime’s existence is supported by the mutual aid of the armed forces of that country, dispensing with such trifles as elections. See too many locations to count.

    It is an attack on democracy when elections are held and yet the results are as scripted as next Monday’s WWE RAW! event available for order now on pay-per-view. See Cuba.

    It is an attack on democracy when ballots are rejected at insanely high rates in regions opposed to approval of the referendum question favoured by the governing party. See Quebec.

    It is an attack on democracy when people are not free to speak their mind if any expenses incurred in the speaking of said mind are not registered with the bureaucrat in charge of all the bean counting. See Canada.

    It is an attack on democracy when the aforementioned expenses are registered with the chief bean-counter, who says “Bad! Bad! you’re over the limit! Here’s your punishment” See Canada.

    Telling political parties they’ll have to work harder to obtain $ support from actual live human voters who support their cause, because the taxpayer spigot in Ottawa will be tightened a notch? Let’s see, there must be some place on the attack-on-democracy spectrum to pin this one — oh, here we are, over at “NOT!”

  5. It’s an attack on democracy. Only the insensate won’t see that.

  6. Prime Minister Dion?

  7. madeyoulook: It’s an attack to democracy when one party monopolizes the airwaves and tailors financing laws to match what is the most advantageous to them.
    Of course the CPC has now realized that they can’t win elections with ideas, especially if they have to parry the constant attack of other political parties. Their solution; deny the population access to opposed viewpoints.

  8. Mark, Coyne was already in the Tory fold (see his pre-election posts on how all parties that criticized the PM on the state of the economy were unfair or incompetent or something. Andrew what was the point of those posts?)

    As for the Tories proposals. They continue to use inside baseball to their advantage in a startling undemocratic way.

  9. Andrew’s right – Prime Minister Dion it well may be.

  10. The Liberals are about to learn that payback’s a bitch.

    What an ignorant comment.

    Bring this government down. I’m already sick of it. It’s done absolutely nothing useful in over three years but divide us and and make Canadians look stupid.

  11. john g – that has to be the stupidest, most ridiculous argument imaginable. We Liberals wanted nothing more than to keep the PC party alive, as it was the vote split among Conservatives that helped keep us in power. The single biggest beneficiary of Charest’s departure from federal politics was a man named Stephen Harper, who could never have become Prime Minister without the PC’s demise.

  12. Rhaine: “madeyoulook: It’s an attack to democracy when one party monopolizes the airwaves and tailors financing laws to match what is the most advantageous to them.
    Of course the CPC has now realized that they can’t win elections with ideas, especially if they have to parry the constant attack of other political parties. Their solution; deny the population access to opposed viewpoints.”

    Uh, Rhaine, the laws in question were enacted by one man to pay back his usurper, but at the same time protect the Liberal Party’s franchise as they usually got the most votes. It is an attack on nothing but the Liberal Party of Canada; that organization has attacked my patriotism for daring to vote or think differently than they wish, to hell with them. If their supposed supporters won’t actually pony up a hundred each than they’re history. Good riddance.

  13. Peter, perhaps Harper should force his cabinet colleagues to forgo their ministerial salaries and drivers?

  14. Andrew, no problem with me there.

  15. Peter:

    That is an excellent idea. Even cutting the bonus they get as a minister would be a good idea.

  16. Woops.. I meant to say Andrew in that last post.

  17. I’m glad you put it in perspective, MYL. Its funny how , in many quarters, the confiscation of money earned through productive labor is considered patriotic while the returning of that money to its original owners is considered ideological and insensitive. See recent arts cuts (“attack”) and the decision not to subsidize certain controversial films (“censorship”)

    Fine. But isn’t it also idelogical to demand that your cause be paid for by me? Especially since your cause lacks public support so much so that it cannot rely on the donations of its supporters and so you need to take money from others by force?

  18. If it weren’t ideological, we should see a return to the previous election financing regime. Setting up the system to the strategic advantage of the CPC is reprehensible.

  19. But isn’t it also idelogical to demand that your cause be paid for by me?

    I voted for the NDP and the $1.95 they get from it comes out of my tax dollars, not yours. But by all means, demand that the Conservatives return your $1.95 if you feel like it. Just don’t make demands on my tax dollars.

  20. Andrew (presumably not Coyne and not Potter), what was reprehensible was taking money from someone with no say in the matter, in order to support a party that someone doesn’t support. That is the present taxpayer-provided trough. That was corporate and union funding when it was permitted (stealing from shareholders and union members respectively). You feel strongly enough in a political party? Wonderful — put up. Keep me out of it. Attack? Come on, that is democracy at its best.

    It so happens that this plan favours (proportionally) the governing party, even while it penalizes the governing party the most in absolute dollar amounts. So it is politically very shrewd. But it’s also the right thing to do. And the looming economic dark cloud is as good a time as any to get on with it. May the hatchet strike elsewhere, often, in the bloated beast that is Ottawa…

  21. What does this mean?

    This means that in these globally historic days of uncertainty and economic crisis that our government’s number one priority is the destruction and demise of the Liberal Party of Canada. This Conservative government has done absolutely nothing for the financial crisis in Canada – probably because it was too busy plotting how to kneecap the opposition. I feel physically ill. This is a planned and cynical war of attrition. Sparrow, Harper, Flannigan, – new synonyms for the word mean.

  22. Fundamental misunderstanding, Robert. Voters vote. Taxpayers pay. If you think voters = taxpayers and taxpayers = voters, you have a lot to learn. Taxpayers pony up a beaver-shy-of-a-toonie per voter’s vote. Each taxpayer’s contribution is pie-sliced according to the distribution of votes; you don’t get to say you contributed your own buck-ninety-five based on your own vote. You only get to say that if you sent your own dough in directly. Which you might like to do in future, if this smart idea comes to pass.

  23. I don’t even understand how they think they can kill the LPC. They could, perhaps, cause it to declare bankruptcy, but it would only spring back to life after sloughing off the debt.

    Shareholders have lots of say in the matter. They elect the Board, who are their representatives. It’s a lot like the HoC. Are you suggesting that Canadians have no say in the government of Canada, and that this government is undemocratic?

  24. They could, perhaps, cause it to declare bankruptcy, but it would only spring back to life after sloughing off the debt.

    And what a fine candidate for governing party that would make the defaulters.

  25. I’d rather they rack up party debt than government debt. To each their own, I guess.

  26. RE: Chretien wanting to destroy the Conservative party. I found the article I was thinking of…though I was mistaken; it wasn’t through drafting Charest that they hoped to destroy the Conservatives in Quebec. It was through the sponsorship program. It was Benoit Corbeil who admitted it. See here

    And for the record, despite the payback comment I made above I don’t support Harper in this either. After Chretien succeeded in destroying the Conservatives in Quebec we got years of corruption with no reasonable alternative. That’s what happens when there is only one viable alternative, and it will happen again if there is no-one to hold the Conservatives to account. I want to see the Liberal party fixed, not crushed. I find the idea of the Conservatives using this crisis to crush their opponents financially by taking advantage of their fundraising strength distasteful.

  27. Well, john g, maybe the Liberal supporters will be so incensed by this Machiavellian cheap shot that they will feel compelled to contribute a few hundred bucks to the threatened party they hold so dear to their hearts. This could be just the grassroots renaissance of the Liberal Party we are all hoping for.

    Oh, right. They are far better at spending other people’s money than their own. Shame on the Tories for exploiting that. Shame. To the barricades for democracy, everyone — if this line is broken the war is lost!

  28. hmmm… I just lost lots of money last night with a certain stock of mine. What’s Harper and Co. up to? Interesting… petty little games. Smart.

  29. I just heard a somewhat credible rumour that Dion, Layton and Duceppe are holding a teleconference right now to discuss the possibility of forming a coalition government. Can anyone at Macleans confirm or debunk that?

  30. i am bogged down in something else so I haven’t looked, but is there a public record of the current or recent bankrolls for all parties?

  31. Fine. The strong should survive, however, by what we’re hearing, this is a immediate and undeniably unprecedented decision that provides no adaptive grace period, unlike Chretien’s legislation (he allowed that party nearly a year to function under the old rules before the new ones came into order). While it will save approximately $30 million, that is neither significant nor insignificant; but taken with the fact that Harper just selected the most bloated cabinet in Canadian history, and has over the past 24 months flushed the $3b rainy day fund down the drain, it has no connection to his stated purpose.
    If he’s serious, there should be a one-year adaption period, or reduce the amount per vote over the full term to $1.
    The other option should be that the CONs open up their books and provide the other parties with all the tricks they are using to cheat the system. I doubt the CONs will do that — they also don’t care for the 63% of Canadians who didn’t vote for them, either.

  32. Robert, if your rumour is correct, that Vulcan chess game is over. A coalition of three limping parties ganging up to overthrow the government to protest the cost-cutting principle of free taxpayer cash for political parties? As economic hardship looms on the horizon? When that coalition collapses five to five hundred hours after birth, and elections are held again, tell me which party should feel confident about settling in with a majority? The one with the money and the pork-fighting rep, or one of the ones with no money (and one very truly led by “not a leader” this time) that are looking like spoiled children who just learned Santa couldn’t bring the Game Boy this year because times were tight?

  33. MYL, I don’t have a problem in principle with cutting off the public financing of political parties; I think it’s a great future target to shoot for. The Conservatives have proven that a political party can survive with nothing more than donations from the grassroots. Obama did not take a cent of public money in his campaign.

    But this is not something that can be just dropped on the opposition parties with no warning; time is needed to plan for a change that cuts off up to 55-85% of an organization’s funding for the next few years. You can’t just remove 85% of an organization’s funding at the snap of your fingers and expect that they can survive.

    The CPC is opportunistically taking advantage of a weakened opposition to hobble them all for years if not bankrupt them completely. Their choice is to accept it, or force another election they can’t afford while fighting the bad optics of not being willing to walk the walk and get off the public teat in tough times.

  34. Robert any party that enters a formal governing coalition with the separatists is asking for annihilation in the next election.

  35. You can’t just remove 85% of an organization’s funding at the snap of your fingers and expect that they can survive.

    agreed…which is why the CBC should be given three to six months notice that they will also be be permanently removed from the national tit.

  36. “If it weren’t ideological, we should see a return to the previous election financing regime. Setting up the system to the strategic advantage of the CPC is reprehensible.”

    I would much prefer to see parties financed by individuals with donation limits than see corporations and unions cut checks for political favours. If I wanted that I’d move to the States.

  37. john g, if an organization was 85% dependent on free taxpayer cash, I will cheer on its disappearance. It can re-organize quickly, or it can die. Rest in peace. Political welfare has been slain. Now, on to corporate welfare…

    My open suggestion to the Liberals, who appear to have still not figured out their own F’ing legislation, still stands. Start fundraising, people. And if your supporters refuse to, you know, actually support you, you will have earned your demise.

  38. Brian, I soooo like your thinking. Flaherty puts that one in tomorrow and I will take out a membership and offer to run for them.

  39. And, speaking of the Corp, where else would you expect the Green Party leader to have a voice except through that party’s mouthpiece. From cbc.ca:

    “It’s a very cynical ploy on Mr. Harper’s part obviously geared toward bankrupting the Liberal party more than helping out the Canadian taxpayer,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May.

    Really, Ms. May, is Her Majesty’s Opposition so pathetically weak that the leader of another party, that has (let’s see, one, two, four, eight, carry the one…) ZERO MPs, must come to its defense?

    No, conbots, don’t answer that…

  40. Wow, Harper gets a massive cabinet for all his buddies, AND he gets to cut off the main source of funding for all of his rivals.

    The man must think he’s died and gone to heaven.

    Thank God a major economic crisis came along just in time to bankrupt his opposition. I’d say that the opposition should have seen this coming, but apparently they were actually listening to the Prime Minister. Before the election, things weren’t so bad. We weren’t even going to need to run a deficit. Now the sky is falling and we have to cut of the majority of funding for all parties that aren’t the Conservative Party.

    What a difference a month and a half makes.

    If this somehow gets through, I fully expect a slew of lawsuits by the Tories against the Liberals, for, oh, I don’t know, they’ll think of something. Having cut off 63% of their funding, the CPC ought to be able to force them into spending most of the other 43% by the time the snow melts.

    I wonder what’s the most likely of two crazy scenarios. One, the opposition forms a coalition government to turf out the Tories, or two, the Liberal Party of Canad is bankrupt by June.

    Place your bets.

    One positive note of course. How long can the Bloc last with 86% of their funding cut? I know I couldn’t last long on 14% of my salary.

  41. LKO’s little math slip made me think of this:

    Liberal math: 63% + 43% = 100%.
    Funny how that actually explains a lot…

  42. Somebody is lonely.

  43. MYL: No need to be an ass.

  44. “The proposal to cut public financing has been floated within the Conservative government before but dismissed as too incendiary. This time, it was obviously decided that this is too good a crisis to waste.

    National Post’s John Ivison. Amazing. Glad I no longer live in Canada,

  45. The only good thing about all this is watching the chuckies gush and slaver over each other at the very thought of such an idea.

    Take a few deep breaths, guys. Ain’t gonna happen.

    But someday we might find out who financed Harpy’s leadership campaign. Peter Newman’s not dead yet.

  46. No, Andrew, sometimes I think MYL does have that need.

    But fine – late at night in my rage over the Tories building up a massive war chest while times were good, forcing us to spend $300 million on an election that basically changed nothing, and then, during the biggest economic crisis in decades, trying to cut off the majority of funding for the opposition and telling them “Hey, just go raise money like we did” (You know, just pretend we’re NOT in the middle of the worst economic crisis in decades… you know, like WE did BEFORE the election) because, saving $30 million is SOOO essential (did I mention the $300 million we just flushed down the toilet or the 11 extra cabinet ministers we just added?) – I wrote 43 instead of 47. Sue me. (lol, I know… that’s phase two!).

    More importantly for the LOVE OF GOD how many times do I have to write in comments on blogs that I’m not a Liberal!!! Not everyone who thinks the CPC is horrific is a Liberal MYL. We’re 62% of the country, if we were all Liberals we wouldn’t even need to have this conversation.

  47. “They are far better at spending other people’s money than their own”

    Yes, to me, this is the definition of a modern-day Liberal or socialist. Someone who spends other peoples’ money and then takes credit for it.

    So it is only natural, that Liberals would take the proposal from Harper as an attack upon their very existence, an attack on democracy, or even the end of the world as we know it. The prospect of using their own money, which of course they would need to earn through fundraising or appealing to Canadians, is a foreign concept!

    The funniest posts here are the ones that say the Cons are “mean”. Hilarious. The Libs did this to themselves. They voted in the Commons for free money for themselves. They became dependent on the free money. Now they are vulnerable because of the dependency. It’s like a drug habit.

  48. LKO, I did not say you were a Liberal. I have read enough of your posts to note that. It was a simple math error in a likely hasty comment, and lord knows my typing and spelling could use some help from time to time. No harm, no foul, and no slight meant against you. I re-read my post, and I see how it could be taken that way. So I apologize about that. Really. But the innocent math slip made me think of something. I am old enough to remember the Trudeau years. We’re still paying for that. Hence my apparently ass-y comment.

    And Blues, thanks for worrying, but with all my friends here, I can’t possibly be lonely. Tired, yes. Good night.

  49. I was interested by this comment by Ivison.

    The chances of another general election in the near future have always seemed remote, on the basis that none of the combatants could afford it.

    With this proposal, they can’t afford not to go to the polls again.”

    Seems as though perhaps the opposition might feel as though their choices are 1) slit your wrists now, or 2) slowly bleed to death.

    Welcome to the new, kinder, gentler, more functional Parliament.

    When the Tories were bragging last week that they had enough money to go right back into election mode, I never thought they meant “watch this, we’re gonna do all we can to plunge us right back into an election”. Credit where credit is due. This feels like it’s right out of “The Prince”.

    Of course, I know my Wellsian rules of Canadian politics so despite my heated (mostly for fun) rhetoric, I also know this is never going to happen. This would be way too exciting, and Rule Number 1 clearly applies.

  50. Yeah, myl, no harm, no foul. Sometimes one forgets that the people reading comments can’t see you smiling as you write them.


  51. Had to share this from Accidental Deliberations which I though was classic, and nicely sums up what non-Tory supporters think of this move:

    Shorter ‘Deficit’ Jim Flaherty: In these troubled times, opposition parties are a luxury that Canada simply can’t afford.


  52. “Jean has the constitutional right, however, to ask one of the other parties to form a government.

    Only one Governor General has ever done that. In 1926, Lord Byng of Vimy denied a request from then-prime minister William Lyon MacKenzie King to dissolve parliament and instead asked Conservative leader Arthur Meighen to form a government, which he did.”

    At a public meeting last night in Regina, I heard former Saskatchewan premier Allan Blakeney say that he had no doubt that Canada’s constitutional conventions would require the Governor-General to do just that, should the Harper government lose a confidence vote so shortly after an election had been held.

    I wonder what other experts on Canada’s constitution would have to say?

  53. So, please admire the smile when I point out that you meant 37, not 47, in your correction.

  54. A coalition government is seriously being considered tonight in Ottawa. What is Harper thinking?

  55. So – the slashing – would this include the makeup lady, Harper’s chef (surely Loreen can make a couple of sandwiches and order in a pizza and use a catering service when necessary)? How about the abuse of the 10%rs, or wasting gas when Harper could walk to the parliament buildings, or all that polling he does on a regular basis, or only phoning Bush/Obama after 6 to reduce long distance call charges, …….we could go on.

    I have no problem with a couple of bucks every couple of years or even 4 years from my taxes. Oh, and cut the subsidies our taxes give to the like of CTV and Global….yup they get some too.

  56. Stephen, by shaky convention there a sort of “window” in which a new government can be formed from the same Parliament, of about 6 months and before the first budget is passed. After that you have to have another election. In King-Byng, nearly a year had passed when King requested dissolution and thus Byng was overstepping his conventional authority in refusing it. If the Opposition defeated the Government now, the GG would ask Dion to try and form a government; if that lasted longer than 6 months-ish then we’d have to have another election when it fell. If nobody can form a government then we have an election. If it’s still impossible then, we rename the country Belgium.

  57. “…86 per cent for the Bloc …”

    Consider, my fellow Canuks, that this brilliant move will effectively kill the Bloc once and for all! No more will these speparatist stooges get paid by the Canadian tax payers to bash the country for a living. That’s a big will for Cananda, and I’m all for it.

    As for the Libs and Dippers, they could stand a kick in the pants to convince them of the need court the financial support of actual voters rather than continue to use the tax-payer’s dime as a crutch. I see no downsides.

  58. Interesting point, john g, about nobody being able to go into coalition with the Bloc. I take it you mean coalition in the sense of appointing Bloc MP’s to Cabinet? I can’t see that happening, but I can see the Liberals and NDP forming an official coalition (shared Cabinet) with the Bloc propping them up. Since it’s been years since Duceppe said anything about separation, I don’t think Bloc support is as politically toxic as it used to be. For one thing anti-separatism is a lot less strong in the ROC than it was in 1995; on one level, I think many Canadians respect the Bloc as the most effective team of regional whiners we’ve yet produced, and various other regions are still playing catch-up.

  59. Ben Hicks: “I see no downsides.”

    Apart from the Government falling?

  60. I mean the propossal itself. If the opposition parties choose this as the hill they want to die on, then that’s their problem.

  61. So you really think there’s room for Tory expansion at this point, seat-wise? Where, exactly, Quebec? On a “no taxpayer money for Quebec political parties” platform? Good luck!

  62. “I don’t think Bloc support is as politically toxic as it used to be.”

    It would be fun to see the separatists having to pledge confidence in a government led by Stephane Dion. But perhaps a dozen of them would cross the floor and join the Conservatives rather than do that, giving the Tories their majority. It would be so exciting that it’s definitely not going to happen. The proposal is probably going to be scrapped after the Tories make the Opposition look bad.

  63. “I mean the propossal itself. If the opposition parties choose this as the hill they want to die on, then that’s their problem.”

    No, I’m pretty sure if Harper will push this to a confidence vote without getting at least one party to sign on, he’s an idiot and deserves what comes.

  64. As long as we’re saving the taxpayer money, I notice that the political contribution tax credit is estimated at $22 million for 2009. I assume that those of you who dislike political welfare are against all forms of it, and don’t mind making your campaign contributions with after-tax money, right?

  65. Ben,

    If the opposition parties choose this as the hill they want to die on, then that’s their problem.”

    Well, yes, but keep in mind that they may well see the Tory proposal as being tantamount to a death threat. In other words, if this doesn’t kill us we’ll slowly bleed to death anyway, so we might as well go all “guns blazing” now in the hopes of forming a coalition government and then winning the people back before the next election, rather than let the Tories cut off the majority of our money (for the Liberals, at a time when they’re already in deficit as a party) and possibly force us into bankruptcy during the toughest economic times since the depression, while they run the country and sit on their war chest.

    Could stopping this “kill” the opposition? Maybe. However one starts having all sorts of crazy thoughts when someone’s holding a gun to your head.

    As I said previously, when the choice is “slit your wrists now, or slowly bleed to death” is “rational thought” even a factor anymore?

    I figure, this all goes away by the end of the week, or Dion’s Prime Minister by Christmas.

    There I said it. It’s absolutely INSANE, but if it happens, I want it noted that I said it early. A bunch of people beat me to it, but there, now I can claim prescience if it happens.

  66. I see your point LKO. However, if Jack Layton were smart he would go along with this. Yes, his party would suffer from this policy – but it would hurt the Bloc and Libs far more. And if they go under, there will be a serious opening for a spunky left-of-center party in Quebec and Toronto if he can play his cards right.

    If not, I’m down with sitting back and watching the spectacle of King Bing II. Last time I checked, that ultimately worked out pretty well in the dethrowned party’s favor.

  67. Ben Hicks, your link is to Tom Flanagan’s piece on the Tory wooing of the “ethnic vote.” So I guess we’re talking 905 and Lower Mainland? They need 11 more seats. Seems to me that’s a hell of a gamble on short-term payoff for what’s fundamentally a long-term strategy. Unless the idea is to hand the reins to Dion-Layton and wait for the national stagecoach to overturn, which strikes me as a) very cynical and b) contrary to Wells’ 11th Rule of Canadian Politics: Being Prime Minister is So Much Better than Not Being Prime Minister.

  68. “If it’s still impossible then, we rename the country Belgium.”

    I hope you’re not using ‘Belgium’ as shorthand for ‘dysfunctional federation.’

    After all, as recently as four years ago, Belgium was Stephen Harper’s model for Canada.

    ‘Nuff said, eh?

  69. Did I miss the ‘To be a Canadian you must never upon pain of DEATH- donate to a political party’ social edict? Given the near covert and pathetic attempts at fundraising thus far, I must assume the imaginary law against copying Barack Obama is enforced without mercy.

    People will either donate, or not. And then we will get the government we care enough about to send the very best.

    Maybe that is why the political junkies are so incensed, they will find out in a real, measurable way exactly how much their party appeals to their members and voters. Won’t that be a painful look in the mirror. Ideology is dead, long live ideology.

  70. The more I ponder this, i.e. for a good 10 minutes now, the crazier it seems. Say Harper’s not serious and he’s just sending a signal to the Opposition: all it will do is paper over differences in the Left, besides encouraging the Liberals to get serious about small-donor fundraising. Plus it looks like politics as usual at a time when Canadians are getting a bit antsy about the economy.

    There are no “death blows” in politics.

  71. “Ben Hicks, your link is to Tom Flanagan’s piece on the Tory wooing of the “ethnic vote.” So I guess we’re talking 905 and Lower Mainland? They need 11 more seats. Seems to me that’s a hell of a gamble on short-term payoff for what’s fundamentally a long-term strategy. Unless the idea is to hand the reins to Dion-Layton and wait for the national stagecoach to overturn, which strikes me as a) very cynical and b) contrary to Wells’ 11th Rule of Canadian Politics: Being Prime Minister is So Much Better than Not Being Prime Minister.”

    Well, I did say “maybe”…

    Okay, okay I give up. It probably won’t happen. (Much as I’d it to.)

  72. Stephen – re: Belgium – well, it’s pretty dysfunctional – it’s been a year and a half now and they don’t have a stable government. Admittedly the problem is more acute than chez nous because our linguistic minority is half the size of their linguistic minority, but if the Harper government falls and Dion can’t keep it together and we go to another election and still nobody can form a government then it’s a full-dress constitutional crisis without parallel, AFAIK, in a Westminster system. That’s getting a bit ahead of the game, of course, but to my mind it’s implicit in the continuing presence of the Bloc in Parliament.

  73. If Dion gets to be pm does it still men thay’ll replace him in may anyway – just a thought. Harper remiinds me othat great line in ofo the cuckoos nest; you know the one where murphy complains that nurse ratchet is a bit of a c**t who likes to play with a stacked deck.

  74. This is truly awful and against the principles of responsible government. It seems every second word coming out of the Conservative’s mouth since the election is ‘responsible’. How ironic.

  75. This is unfortunate. These days, you may have the greatest ideas in the world, but if you can’t get them out to the people, you’ll never get elected. And if you never get elected, you won’t draw in the donations to be able to afford advertising. And if you can’t afford advertising, you can’t get your ideas out to the people.

    Personally, I don’t think private money should play any part in campaigns, give every riding the same limit, and refund their advertising expenses below that limit. If they go above the limit, throw’em in jail for a few months. That way what we get is an actual competition of ideas, from all candidates, rather than this crap where one group pours money into a region to try to win while ignoring other areas of the country where they don’t think they have a shot. Give everybody a chance to hear all the ideas their candidates are presenting.

  76. We just had an election. This change would significantly change how political parties operate in Canada. Was this in Harper’s election platform? Harper campaigns on completely false messages.

  77. Can you imagine what the Tories would be doing now, in terms of tweaking the system, if they had a majority?

  78. So much for the permanent opposition. My crystal ball doesn’t see the GG turning them down.

  79. Will the government consider this a vote a confidence?

    This stems from a party whose leadership is not on a level-playing field with its opponents. Stephen Harper rose to become leader of the Alliance under differentt financing rules. Pundits and reporters remain content to ignore who has financed his political rise to power. This would not pass the snuff test in the US or in any democratic country that I can think of.

  80. catherine,

    I wouldn’t start basing your assumptions of what the Tories are going to do in power with what they said during the election campaign.

    That way lies disappointment.

  81. “Will the government consider this a vote a confidence?”

    Its a budget amendment. Its not their call.

  82. Mme. Clarkson admitted after the fact that she would’ve denied Martin his election should he have asked for one within six months of forming his minority government. This situation is nearly identical in that respect. The times are too desperate for the business of government to be delayed by another election should confidence be lost. To be frank, we cannot afford the government to surpasses its titanic record of ineptitude while Canadians suffer along the wayside.

  83. This latest move is completely unnecessary. If the goal is to bankrupt the Liberals, there was no need for such an idiotic legislation as the Liberals are doing a fine job bankrupting themselves by dumping Dion and setting up another leadership contest that they can’t afford. The CPC would have been best served by simply waiting until the Leadership convention is over and pulling the plug right away. The LPC would never survive an election soon after their convention.

    I think that this is a move aimed at provoking an election. I think the real purpose of this is to plunge the country into an election so as to avoid having to deal with the current economic crisis.

    Either that or Harper is even more stupid that I thought.

  84. The troops are already rallying.
    I expect donations to start pouring in to the War Chest starting today.
    Doug Ferguson has a golden opportunity to prove he is NOT another bag o’ hammers!

  85. The CPC put significant limits on political donations in a way that would not hurt them too much but hurt other parties.

    Now they wish to cut the subsidy.

    I’m all for cutting the subsidy – but remove or increase the very restrictive fundraising limits.

  86. Also very clever tactics to cut this while a defecit is announced. Gotta give them credit for that.

  87. Elections cost over 300 million dollars – why not abolish them altogether? After all, we are living in difficult, if not dangerous, times, right?

  88. It would be fun to see the separatists having to pledge confidence in a government led by Stephane Dion. But perhaps a dozen of them would cross the floor and join the Conservatives rather than do that, giving the Tories their majority. It would be so exciting that it’s definitely not going to happen.

    I’m so glad I’m not the only person who had this thought…even if the Bloc has played down the separatist angle in recent years, it’d still seem like a stretch to imagine that all of them would be okay with supporting the man who effectively killed off their hopes a decade ago. I know that we should always expect the least exciting outcome (in this case, Harper kills the idea before a vote), but how insane would it be if Dion, Layton and Duceppe announced they were forming a coalition government, followed shortly thereafter by a dozen Bloquistes either crossing the floor or splintering off to form a new party? The thought of a Harper majority is terrifying, but it would certainly make the next election the most exciting one we’ve had in about 20 years…

  89. What planet are you all on, and can I get a ticket? Many of you talk as if people have a choice to donate to their favourite political party, or to choose not to do so.

    Gee, hubby’s laid off, the kid needs emergency dental procedures along with winter boots, our gamble with that stock crashed and burned, and the rent just went up. Hmmm, maybe the bank will give me a loan to make a political donation. What’s that? The bank isn’t in the mood to write a ‘risky’ loan?

    Now’s a great time to take away my voice in Parliament.

  90. The my tax dollar and not your tax dollar argument is specious. Not everyone pays taxes.

    How in the world is asking your supporters to contribute the $1.95 a year themsleves, a cup of coffee in some places, a burden?

    Obama proved it can be done, Yes We Can, the cons up here prove it can be done. So if you cannot inspire your supporters to offer small amounts of money then who lacks ideas?

    This is actually “more democratic” in that it forces political parties to be more engaged with the populace, by asking a little more of the.

    Sure its politics, so was the original legislation. This is hardly an animating argument. As for it forcing the three parties together….sure…..I dont think the cons are scared of that either. And if we can get to a two party choice then maybe we can get rid of that other specious argument about a majority of Canadians.

    The political theory debating point here though is what does it do for the formation of new political parties and competition for ideas….legit question. Once again there is likely to be little sympathy from the Cons about this, as they have been the source of numerous new parties without the government largesse helping them. It is possible to create a political party and movement with ideas and organization to animate the money.

    Amazing how quickly the opposition parties gravitate toward this issue and forget “the stimulus” issue. Way too funny. Like a that woman at the Iowa Hawkeyes game, the NDP, Libs and Greens may decide tomorrow they really regretted their words and actions in the heat of the moment. Like that unfortunate woman they are going to have to live the recorded consequences for a long time. PAt Martin, Bob rae, Thomas Mulcair all making sttements that make wonderful wonderful raw material for a TV commercials.

    Not A leader…..you ain’t seen nothing yet.

  91. Jenn – great point.

    Of course, donors to the CPoC may not be struggling to buy their kids winter boots and look forward to a warm handshake when they walk into their local bank branch. Their franchise as a Canadian citizen is more valuable than yours thanks to their personal financial circumstances. Just the way conservatives believe it should work.

  92. Wow. I really hope the rumours are true about the funding being cut and the oppo parties thinking about forming a coalition.

    I hope the Cons are serious about this. If supporters of a political party can’t be bothered to dip their hands into their pockets and donate to their party than I don’t see why the rest of us should have to. Political parties aren’t a public utility, they have no need to exist. I think our political scene would be much more interesting if their were no parties.

    Are the Libs/NDP/BQ really going to go with the ‘we are entitled to our entitlements’ argument during the worst financial meltdown in decades? I’m sure the Cons are hoping for that response.

    And a coalition between Libs and BQ, I think that would start an existential crisis with the supporters of both parties if the pooh bahs decide that’s the best response to having their subsidies cut.

  93. Stephen – can you give me an idea how many Canadians pay less than $1.50 in taxes a year – including their payment of GST?

  94. “The my tax dollar and not your tax dollar argument is specious. Not everyone pays taxes.”


    There are also the people who don’t vote but pay taxes. And for parties to qualify for this $1.95 subsidy, don’t they have to obtained a certain percentage of the overall vote. What about people who voted, but not for one of the major parties.

    I say no public money to political parties. Supporters donate or bye-bye party.

  95. “If supporters of a political party can’t be bothered to dip their hands into their pockets and donate to their party than I don’t see why the rest of us should have to.”

    Spare us the Free Market (pwb) nonsense. That allowance is in place precisely because a Free Market (pwb) isn’t allowed.

  96. All this philosophy is charming, but does anybody doubt that this is a tactical move designed to financially cripple the opposition? It’s basically financial gerrymandering.

    Is everybody ok with that? This sort of thing worked out pretty badly for the Republican party in the medium term.

  97. “financial gerrymandering”

    bingo. well put.

  98. financial gerrymandering…..and what was the original legislation?

    Lets go back to first principles for a second. The purpose of the legislation was to eliminate the influence of big money, corporate and union donations. The ideal has been to drive it to contributions from a braod range of people…..once again Obama refused public money and was able to raise a stinkload based on small contributions from many, we will ignore the flaws in his system of checking for a moment.

    If these are the agreed principles then how is eliminating the government subsidy an issue. It was put in place to buy time for the Liberal party, if we are going to talk about tactical moves, who were losing corprorate donations.

    This is a tactical move but so what, it doesnt offend the purpose of the legislation. Nowhere is there a goal stated in the legislation that the purpose is to encourage the formation of new political parties.

    Come on, they are limits on donation iszes, there are limits on election spend and there are subsidies that go to parties and candidates for running an election that are over and above the subsidy used in between elections, which the $1.95 is.

    Totally tactical move, but well within the original goals of the legislation. The response by the opposition parties is equally tactical, as it relates to their funding as opposed to some other goal. So spare the moral arguments. The Liberals are in a vulnerable situation, they did it to themselves…..nobody owes them an existence. If they cant raise the money from their own supporters, shoot if they got $5 per supporter they would be better off.

    I am sirry they have been so mismanaged and they cant seem to manage their own affairs. I am sorry that such a long standing institution in canada looks to be about to self immolate when the undemocratic funding is cut off, looks that way ecause it is based on votes, but there is no choice in the matter. To explore that for a second, how do you properly allocate money based on “strategic voting” that everyone was all agog over. Voter x’s heart is with the greens but they vote Lberal to “stop Harper” where should the money go? Maybe the voter shoudl choose themselves?

    As for people who are net beneficieries at the federal level of money. Havent found a study yet, butcertainly there are examples, students, aboriginals on reserve are just two, prisoners would be another, their moeny based on votes goes to their party as well.

    Lets go back to theory for a second……the proper position is really that there never shoudl be any money from any individual to any party. It shoudlnt be base don votes, every party should get an equal amount at election time. Is this the system we want? I think it ignores important feedback for parties in between elections and is effectovely a subsidy to a necessary but non productive industry.

    Cap their spending, limit who contributes to small amounts and force the parties to engage the populace to raise their inter election funds….what is so wrong with that?

  99. my guess is between the high 70 and mid 80 perctiles.

  100. I should have perhaps led with this as it perhaps explains why I’m so upset over this, but personally, my vote was determined pretty much on who I wanted to get the most out of our publicly financed electoral system.

    I voted for the Greens this year, even though I knew they wouldn’t win my riding, because I wanted to help them get as much money as possible to improve their viability for future elections.

    Now, it appears that the Tories, not satisfied that our electoral system makes it so that the 937,000 Green supporters get no representation in Parliament would also like all those votes to mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHATSOEVER.

    Surely I can’t be the only one who voted based on a system the government now proposes to change.

    I’m also not so sure this should be referred to as a “subsidy”. This isn’t a “subsidy”, it’s the public financing of our electoral system. It’s the conscious decision to take the power out of the hands of those who can afford to donate to a party, and try to create a system where a party’s electoral viability has at least SOME connection to the party’s popularity among the electorate, and not just who’s the best fundraiser. The Tories would like us all to equate “fundraising ability” with “popular support” but that’s hogwash. If the Tories were as popular as their bank accounts suggest, we wouldn’t be in a minority situation today. If I want my political process to be dominated by the people who are the best at raising money, I’ll vote for some telemarketing company. I want parties focused on coming up with policies that can garner the support of the electorate, not on raising war chests to fight their enemies.

    It’s terribly idealistic I suppose, and I should probably just admit defeat, return to the Liberals, and cut a big cheque.

    I wonder if many other formerly disaffected Liberals will feel the same?

  101. Yo Harper: Time for a little “incremental cost” analysis.

    Hey, here’s brilliant idea to rescue our economy? Let’s save $30 million in order to render a $300 million exercise completely worthless and one sided.

    Without the $30 million of political party funding, these $300 million elections become a total waste of time? Harper wants to save $30 million to render a $300 million exercise basically worthless. That’s like buying a Ferrari and not being willing to pay for its license plate. All dressed up and no where to go. The fate of Canadian democracy under Stephen Harper, the evil genius:

    Kelly McParland: Stephen Harper, evil genius
    Posted: November 27, 2008, 3:41 PM by Kelly McParland

  102. All this philosophy is charming, but does anybody doubt that this is a tactical move designed to financially cripple the opposition? It’s basically financial gerrymandering. Is everybody ok with that?

    When you say “opposition”, you do realize that Canadian taxpayers are footing almost the entire bill for the Bloq Quebecois, and in doing so — we’re paying for our own demise like a virus to eat its own host. Are you ok with THAT?

    There seems to be this notion that the present system is fair and noble. It is neither.

  103. Brent Fullard-Harper wants to save $30 million to render a $300 million exercise basically worthless.

    Great point. Harper not calling the fall 2008 vanity election would provide 10 years worth of funding to the political parties.

  104. Some Nanos polling numbers to ponder:

    New Nanos National Poll – CP, 32%, LP 30%, NDP 20%, GP 10%, BQ 9%

    Committed Voters – Canada (N=865, MoE ± 3.4%, 19 times out of 20)

    * Conservative Party 32% (-6)
    * Liberal Party 30% (+4)
    * NDP 20% (+2)
    * Green Party 10% (+3)
    * BQ 9% (-1)

    (*Note: Undecided 14%)

    Committed Voters – Western Canada (N=299, MoE ± 5.7%, 19 times out of 20)

    * Conservative Party 38% (-14)
    * Liberal Party 27% (+11)
    * NDP 23% (+1)
    * Green Party 13% (+5)

    (*Note: Undecided 14%)

    Maybe spending another $300 million is a small price to pay to rid Canada of the Bully. Looks like Canada still hasn’t taken to sharing ‘the love’ with the Harper Party.

  105. You’re right Brian, the current system isn’t fair and noble. But that’s because private funding is still allowed in it at all.

  106. Which Brent Fullard would this be? Could it be Brent Fullard, the self-appointed “CEO” of a dubious lobby group, created to present an illusion of broad public opposition in a common cause, when really the lobby group was Brent Fullard himself, armed with a keyboard and conspiracy theory decoder ring?

    Brent Fullard, the Goebells-like propoghandist who ironically called Stephen Harper “Hitler” and the Conservatives a band of Nazis and in so doing, grossly offending real-life holocaust victims? Maybe its the Brent Fullard who, after some sober reflection of what he said, vowed to stand by these highly insensitive statements? Or is it the Brent Fullard who months later and on the eve of having his Liberal candidacy revoked decided to apologize, without reservation?

    Will the real Brent Fullard please stand up?

  107. Well … well … well … judging by the amount and intensity of posts my boy Stevie has done it again – if you are reading this Steven ‘ Well Done ‘. I have never encountered another politician who know show to exactly push left wing nut buttons and it does my heart good and I was starting to have a bad day but now the sun is shining rain clouds dispersing. This strange concept of public monies for votes is absurd and the sooner we can jet pack it off the next budget the better … however .. personally I think it will be more usefull than actually passing a bill, as it has the best affect of poking the opposition parties in the eye while possibly removing the rug from underfoot and both at the same time. Absolutely brilliant!

  108. I am so tiiiiired of this non-stop prattling about Canadians’ cherished “tax dollars” !!! My God. It’s been used to justify just about every short-sighted, crassly partisan, ignorant and shallowly populist measure in the history of forever. Give it up already !!

    If you make a crassly partisan decision, you should have to wear it. But no, we let politicians hide behind the sacro-saint tax dollar. It’s plain bull and I can’t believe the number of people on this page who not only gobble it up, but peddle it to boot !! Well, you know what ? No thanks.

    The “per voter” subsidy is just about the only direct way for citizens to decide exactly how the public treasury will spend its money. We know that when we vote for someone, a few bucks from the pot will go to the party. I think that’s all fine and good. Saves a bunch of people the trouble of making a cheque and increasing the profits of the banks.

    So when the Government takes away that subsidy, it takes away voters’ only direct say on the public purse. It might be because they don’t like what 62% of Canadians have to say. Who knows. Whatever the Government’s reason is, it should have to explain it without resorting to this “tax dollar” prattle.

  109. Meanwhile, thousands of Canadians languish as the economy continues in its downward spiral.

    Are you all numb yet?

  110. Brian: the nature of the political parties involved is irrelevant.

  111. “So when the Government takes away that subsidy, it takes away voters’ only direct say on the public purse.”

    Actually, it’s not. Maybe I don’t want my tax dollars going to fund any of the political parties. Who do I vote for? If this was really about giving me a say as to how I want the public purse spent there would be a box on my ballot that would ask me if I want $2 of public money to go to the party I’m holding my nose and voting for.

  112. sbt, you’re right. Democracy is just so darned expensive. We should definitely look into trimming it down a bit. After all, the whole idea of a civil society is overrated. Did you check the box for the Anarchist Party candidate?

  113. Thank you, LKO above and, most recently M-A, for explaining perfectly why the CURRENT system is the real attack on democracy. Mr. McClelland, please listen up. Time was an election was held to ELECT our representatives. Our two commenters have eloquently explained how the sacred vote has been debased to become “who deserves my alloted buck-ninety-five.”

    Here’s a little economics lesson, you two. Do you value your own time so poorly that you will take time out of your life to travel to a polling booth, line up at the first table, cross the school gym floor, line up at the second table, wait while three people scan for your name and address while one of them mispronounces your name, get a small piece of paper, wait for the booth to be free, walk over to the booth, unfurl the paper, notice that all the pencils are broken — oh, MYL, get to the point already — all this for the sole purpose of directing a monetary amount to a political party that is less than the threshold at which the CCRA doesn’t even bother charging or refunding an income tax return balance? Maybe the parties could put some loose change charity jars next to the cash register at the corner store. Oh wait, that would then be your own money. Can’t have that. Better to take one to three hours of your life in order to force loose a couple of bucks of everybody’s money. How does that logic pass any test at all in anyone’s head?

    Here’s the civics lesson: please vote for the candidate and-or party you want to represent you. Please send your own dough to the party(ies) you feel deserve your dough. Ane for the love of Canada please separate those two concepts!

  114. sbt:

    I’d be in favour of a box that says “none of the above because you all stink” on my ballot. But that’s beside the point.

    You may be right. It’s something to debate: would a majority of Canadians want to dissociate their vote from a subsidy ? I don’t know. But even in this very preliminary form, this debate is light-years ahead from the argument being put forward by the “tax dollar” messiahs.

  115. “Meanwhile, thousands of Canadians languish as the economy continues in its downward spiral.

    Are you all numb yet?”

    Well that’s the point, isn’t it? What better way to distract the electorate from the fact that this govt doesn’t know which way is up when it comes to addressing our current economic challenge than to trigger yet another election?

  116. Wow, myl. Maybe if you were just a little more paternalistic in your approach to debate, just a tad more “I hold the universal truth and will dictate it to you”, you could become a party leader in Canada. Whaddaya say ??

  117. myl: Here’s the civics lesson (again): when political parties are funded by the public without constraint, they’re incented to suck up to the wealthy. The wealthy become “their base”, per GWB’s revealing quip from a few years back.

    This proposed system puts political influence disproportionately into the hands of the wealthy and takes it away from the poor. That’s why things like campaign contribution limits and public financing were developed – to maintain the principle that one’s franchise in society (ie. one’s citizenship) should be equal to everyone else’s, regardless of socioeconomic status.

    Honestly, the definition of ‘conservative’ must be “I just hear a buzzing sound when someone says something that would challenge what I want to believe.”

  118. Oh, and myl, I don’t think you have the moral authority to declare anything for “the love of Canada”. Good lord. That one trumps even “save the tax dollar” for sheer intellectual bankruptcy.

    Who are you people ?? Could those who are *NOT * partisan hacks please raise their hand so that I can have an idea of who to engage and who to ignore ?

  119. “Democracy is just so darned expensive. We should definitely look into trimming it down a bit. After all, the whole idea of a civil society is overrated. Did you check the box for the Anarchist Party candidate?”

    You’re right, cms. The $2 per vote subsidy for political parties is the only thing that stands between peace, order, and good government and anarchy. Who knew stability in Canada was so fragile?

  120. There’s a very interesting comment in the longer version of Harper’s critique of the bill —

    “Currently, the public may or may not be aware, that political parties are already very heavily subsidized by taxpayers. In the first place donations to political parties are subsidized, first, by a tax credit system that credits up to 75% of the donation …”

    So that must mean it’s also a subsidy when Canada forgoes tax revenue in the form of corporate write-offs for corporate luxury boxes and entertainment expenses? I personally am more affronted to be forced to support the Toronto Maple Leafs than I am the Bloc Quebecois, and am calling on the Prime Minister to be consistent and stop the travesty.

  121. This move by Harper is just so wonderfully poetic. Instead of whirling flashing lights and bells and sirens to announce the political jackpot, we have the hyperventilating hyper-indignant howls of the political opposition with as much bile laced splatter that can be possibly conjured up.

    “Attack on Democracy”, sheesh, what a load of crap. I don’t want anything to do with your version of democracy if you think it is so weak, so inept, so utterly useless it is incapable of surviving a repeal of a $1.95 per vote subsidy.

    In fact this will strengthen democracy. It places the power back where it belongs with the citizens who care enough to speak up and demand that if you want my $10 bucks or $20 bucks, you damn well better shut up for ten minutes and let me speak my mind and let you know what I think about where this country is going. And if I think you ideas or what you stand for don’t jive with me I can show you the door.

    This is good.

  122. Well said Sammy – very well said!

  123. It places the power back to those political parties who spend their time figuring out the best telemarketing company and donation compelling strategies rather than spending their time actually, you know, governing.

    It reduces government to fund-raising groups rather than the decision makers they should be.

    It focuses the parties on gathering money rather than gathering good ideas.

    It’s a bad move.

  124. We didn’t have a problem with democracy before this subsidy existed. We won’t have one after it is gone. The scheme, not its removal, is an abuse of democracy: a party which does well at the ballot box receives a funding advantage over its rivals. How does that reinforcement of electoral success promote balance and keep the playing field level?

    Let’s refocus on the real problem here, which is that some parties feel they lack enough donations. If a party has little appeal to potential donors, the onus is on the party to give people an incentive to donate instead of arrogantly casting about for other sources of charity. Turning off the tax-funded tap will concentrate their attention on their platforms for two purposes: to obtain funding, and to obtain votes.

  125. It also makes us consumers choosing which party we want to invest in rather than citizens choosing which party we want to govern us.

    Again, I’m a citizen not a just a taxpayer. I want a government, not just a well promoted policy marketing company. I don’t really care if the Tories are better at selling their brand to a particular demographic and getting them to buy into it. Government is supposed to be about more than advertising and fundraising. I just don’t accept this premise that if I really want Party X to form the government then I should give them money so they can defeat their opponents.

    Then again, I want a government that actually represents the will of the people as expressed through their votes, so clearly, I’m nuts.

  126. T. Thwim, there does exist in this world people who are cappable of multi-tasking, where you can successfully do two or more things at the same time. Look at a political party as a consumer product if you will. Maybe an electronic game such as X-box. There are other companies that make games and your goal is to have people buy your game system instead of the others. These companies must do both things well in order to be successful, taking the approach that it can only be one or the other will end in less than satisfactory results.

    In politics the most successful party will be the one that offers a combination of quality product (better ideas) along with the ability to out market the competition. And as I said before, this is good.

  127. Sammy, sorry, you’re simply wrong.

    You can have the best ideas in the world.
    If you don’t have the money to get them spread, they’re not going anywhere.

    You can have the worst ideas in the world.
    If you have the money to get them spread far enough, there’s always plenty of idiots who will buy into it, especially if they aren’t presented with alternatives.

    If you have equal marketing, then, and only then do the ideas compete, and you know, I want the government with the best ideas, not the best marketing team.

  128. a party which does well at the ballot box receives a funding advantage over its rivals. How does that reinforcement of electoral success promote balance and keep the playing field level?

    So, instead of reinforcing electoral success, we should reinforce advertising and fundraising success? What makes it so crazy to tie the monetary success of parties to their electoral success? On the one hand, parties are rewarded for attracting the support of the greatest number of voters. On the other, parties are rewarded for raising the most money. How is the former an “abuse of democracy” and later is hunky dory???

    And why do we need to promote “balance”? More importantly, how is it “balanced” that despite not being terribly more popular than the Liberals, the Conservatives are vastly richer as a party. The current system puts a greater emphasis on garnering the support of the people, removing it puts a greater emphasis on garnering donations. Just because I (hypothetically) donate $10 to the Liberals, and Joe donates $100 to the Tories doesn’t mean the Tories are 10 times more popular than the Liberals; and it CERTAINLY doesn’t make them better for the country. Fundraising success does NOT equal “popularity”, and it certainly doesn’t equal potential success at governing.

    All this “If you want a different government, why don’t you buy one” stuff is really infuriating to me.

  129. TThwim, I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree here. I understand what you are saying but if you can’t get your best and most loyal supporters to put their money where their mouths are why should someone else buy into your ideas? I agree with the policy of restricting corporate and union donations because those donations always come with strings attached and that is not good for democracy. I just believe the foundation of our campaign financing needs to be grounded in the principle of voluntary contributions derived from outside the public purse. This way the parties remain grounded to the people and their current circumstances.

  130. It seems to me it makes the parties remain grounded to the donators and their current circumstances, not the people, which are not necessarily the same thing.

    If, instead, we moved to entirely public financing, per vote, that would be much more conducive to keeping parties grounded in the policies that benefit the most Canadians, not just the ones who are most susceptible to advertising techniques.

  131. “conducive to keeping parties grounded in the policies that benefit the most Canadians”

    aka “straight white anglos”

  132. Mike, unless you want to repeal democracy altogether, we’re going to have to deal with the tyranny of the majority. Because of that, I think it’s better to get it as equal as possible, so that the straight, white, anglos can’t leverage their economic might and connections (as in the Mormon church) to spread their ideas further than those of their opponents.

  133. TThwim, donators are people, maybe I’m all wet here but it seems to me that your recipe is based on the concept of “what can the country do for me” instead of “what can I do for the country”

    Is it too much to ask for, to expect a little more from our citizens than just holding a hand out? To expect an effort of some sort is not a bad thing. Your engaged here by writing just as I am, at least you and I are engaged, others may not have the time or inclination to write but they may donate to a political party if they want to contribute, and there are thousands more who would rather donate $10 or $20 or $50 than publicly express themselves by writing on a blog or writing a letter to the editor. But if you allow the vast majority of citizens to take a complete pass on politics and the state of the national affairs and become completely disengaged other than two weeks before an election, were going to continue to go down the same road we’ve been traveling for the last thirty years, with more and more apathy and lower and lower voter turn out.

    Just look at what happened in the US. The republican vote was pretty constant with 2004 but the democratic vote was up big time. Obama went out and spoke and spoke and spoke and each time he spoke people opened their wallets and become engaged and felt apart of Obama’s campaign and that feeling of having a vested interest is what made his campaign so successful.

    Personally I was shocked by how much he raised, but it also showed how strong the appetite was for his message, however lacking of specifics it contained. But all in all it was a good thing for democracy and the concept of the will of the people.

  134. LKO, five-plus hours ago: personally, my vote was determined pretty much on who I wanted to get the most out of our publicly financed electoral system.
    LKO, one-plus hour ago: I want a government that actually represents the will of the people as expressed through their votes…
    LKO, self-diagnosing one-plus hour ago: so clearly, I’m nuts.

    People, the Tories out-raised everyone by, oh, a light-year or two. If the election was truly there for the buying, do y’all think we’d be looking at the current slightly-stronger minority Parliament? It’s just proof that money doesn’t get you elected; votes do. We elect governments, we don’t buy them. An unpopular idea, widely disseminated, remains an unpopular idea. Forcing the unpopular but well financed to keep quiet is a violation of freedom.

    M-A, if people are gonna use their vote to decide how the taxpayer’s toonie should be spent, rather than to decide a government, a hefty dose of paternalism is most certainly in order. Partisanship has nothing to do with it. Stick around a while, you’ll see me trash the Tories once in a while. And my love for Canada has everything to do with it. I understand the lefty definition equating a conservative idea as un-Canadian, but I will continue to refuse to accept it. Sorry. There, I apologized. Proof positive I’m a good Canadian.

  135. All those who have chosen to be donators are people, it’s true.
    But not all people can choose to donate.

    Donating doesn’t promote engagement with ideas, it promotes engagement with parties.
    Different things again.

    Your suggestion promotes the views of those who are inclined to donate over those who are inclined to vote. Hell, I’m one of those. The Liberals got $50 from me when Flanagan said the goal was to bankrupt them fiscally rather than compete on the strength of ideas.

    The Greens got another $20 from me when Layton & Harper said they didn’t want another viewpoint being expressed to Canadians.

    But that said, I didn’t vote. In my Calgary riding, half the conservative voters would need to stay home and the voters for all the other parties would have to line up behind the same guy just to make it a race. And to be honest, I’ve been paying attention long enough that being in the same room with a bunch of people who are voting conservative because of a 20 year dead policy from a man dead for almost a decade would have just made my day suck.

    Still, under our current system, there’s a reasonable argument that my actions had more effect on the election than theirs. And that’s just not right.

  136. Well said, MYL and T. Thwim.

  137. Person #1: I am pretty wealthy but pretty busy. I agree with much of the platform of Party#1, but I have no time to attend meetings in church basements, or tie up my time being a convention delegate, or man the phone bank during a campaign. But I will send this cheque for $400 because I believe Canada is best served by Party#1. I will certainly vote for Party#1 in the next election. If they continue to impress me, I might try to give a bit more next year.

    Person#2: I am of limited means but I have plenty of free time. I agree with much of the platform of Party#2, but I can only afford the $20 annual membership fee. But sign me up for a policy committee, and let me help put up signs or man the phone banks or act as a party-designated scrutineer on election day, because I believe Canada is best served by Party#2. I will certainly vote for Party#2 in the next election.

    Person #3: Shut up and leave me alone. Politics and politicians make me sick. I believe Party#3 sucks the least from available choices, but don’t come to me asking for any money, you all have too much to blow on the visual pollution of campaign posters already. I will vote for Party#3, based on a review of the policy platforms that I took a look at online a couple of days before the election, and based on that party’s performance in the previous Parliament. I will vote because I believe democracy is the worst choice, save all the others, and I could not live with myself, nor with the memory of my great-grandfather buried among the row-on-rows in Flander’s Field, if I did not at least offer my vote as a contribution to this society. But that vote shouldn’t force anyone to ante up some cash to them.

    Person#4: This country needs help, and I will start helping by running as an elected representative. I will be running in the next election for Party#4, because I believe this party and its leader are the best choices to move this country forward in these times. I will need to work hard to inspire people to contribute money and time and energy to this cause, and I will also need to work to earn the votes of those who do not feel inclined to contribute except by voting.

    Democracy is not attacked when the taxpayer is freed from the coercion of propping up a party. Democracy is not undermined by Person#1. Democracy is enriched by the contribution of millions of Canadians, whether they look like 1,2,3 or 4.

  138. I am of the strong belief that whenever the government gets so corrupt it should be forcibly taken over by its citizens and a new government should be put in place. Even our constitution says the same thing.

  139. “Citizens” looking for “government” are not going to find it balanced on the knife edge of $1.95 per vote. For that, we need to remove most of the incentives which draw power seekers and influence peddlers, which is a different issue altogether. Elections _are_ an exercise in promotion and advertising, and awarding dollars for votes _does_ reinforce the virtuous circle of promotion and advertising – unless you believe that the promotion and advertising have no effect.

    Those of us here as “citizens” looking for “government” should support any undertaking which claws a little bit of leverage away from established, large parties.

    However, if all you want is just to squeak your party into the “A” league with a devil-take-the-hindmost attitude toward the rest, then I understand a desire to suck up every available public dollar. But really you should be arguing to replace the $1.95 per vote with a fixed lump of $X per party per year for any party meeting some threshold (which will be, no doubt, whatever is necessary to admit the Greens through the door). There is no reason to continue a funding advantage which chiefly benefits the two major established parties by awarding money on a per-vote basis.

    This whole issue is a red herring. If the parties have enough money to buy ridiculous scare- and fear-mongering and/or character assassination ads, they have too much money and the $1.95 per voter is money wasted. The results of the last election were not for lack of any of the major parties’ ability to get their issues in the news.

  140. Having money won’t win you the election, MYL, this is true.
    But *not* having money will certainly make you lose it.

    Person #5: This country needs help, and I will start helping by running as an elected representative. I will need to work hard to make sure I have the best ideas and have heard from as many of my potential constituents as possible, because I believe it will be my job to represent them as best as I can. Unfortunately, I will not have the time or the resources to spend fundraising, because I am going to devote all of my time and resources to finding and preaching the solutions that will work best for my country and constituents.

    That’s the guy *I* want to vote for.
    Sadly, I’ll probably never hear about him.

  141. Person #6: I was laid off earlier this year and lost my pension, now I have to work 3 jobs to put food on the table. I am burning the candle at both ends. Who is going to stand up for my interests in Ottawa?

    This isn’t about elections. This is about day-to-day expenses that all parties incur discharging their duties throughout the year, whether in Ottawa or in the constituency. Public financing ensures that everyone’s interests are met in our parliamentary democracy, not just those who have money to spare.

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

  142. Okay, I just had a lot of chocolate so I’m maybe seeing things with a particularly rosy glow, How about the opposition parties tack on an amendment to the bill requiring the elmination of the political donation tax credit. Now nobody has any chance to raise much money. Apart from the Conservative war-chest which is still healthy, political advertising will become a thing of the past. That will mean that the only information a citizen will get is by listening to the candidates running in their riding.

    But maybe listening to the actual candidates will lessen the importance of political parties, and simply send good, intelligent people with ideas of their own to Ottawa. There’s a win-win for the citizen/taxpayer!

  143. Hear hear, Jenn!

  144. Jenn, I like it. Nice to see respect for the taxpayer start to grow. It doesn’t cost much to start up a website to outline your party’s policy. It wouldn’t amount to much for Elections Canada’s home page to link to each party’s website during the campaign. Not enough dough for photo ops, for media junkets as leaders traipse all over, for lawn signs, for TV & radio ads? Awwww…

  145. Since advertising does not have to be honest, and those with more money are not in any way more deserving of representing the people, why not formally ban advertising?

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