OTTAWA – The major federal political parties are in a headlong rush to extract as much cash as possible from partisan supporters before the end of 2013.
The Conservatives and Liberals have posted running fundraising totals for the fourth quarter as they push their followers toward an utterly arbitrary Dec. 31 deadline.
And the New Democrats are promoting what the party calls a “Boxing Day sale” that highlights taxpayer-funded subsidies of up to 75 per cent on political donations.
Those subsidies—which all parties highlight in their fundraising pitches—are available year-round.
For the first time since Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power in January 2006, the parties’ publicized figures suggest the Conservative and Liberal fundraising machines are in a dead heat, with each raising more than $1.5 million this quarter heading into the final week.
The Conservatives have been the unrivalled champions of political fundraising for the past decade and Harper moved to accelerate that advantage when he began phasing out per-vote party subsidies in 2011.
The major political parties will get 50 cents in 2014 for every vote they received in the May 2011 election, down from more than $2 per vote at the time of the campaign.
In the 2015 election year, political parties will be completely weaned from the per-vote subsidy.
The move will save the federal treasury almost $30 million annually, but marks just a fraction of the total subsidies provided to political parties from the public purse.
The government has said it has no intention of eliminating another $80 million in annual subsidies that parties receive from the gold-plated donor tax breaks and from hefty rebates on party expenses.
Fewer than 180,000 Canadians made a donation to a registered federal political party in 2012—less than one per cent of the total 24,257,592 eligible voters for the 2011 election.