Friday, August 28, 2009

Steven Fletcher and the Conservatives Threaten Our Democracy Once Again

One of the items that nearly brought down the Harper government last December, was their plan to end voter subsidies for political parties.

These subsidies were put in place by Jean Chretien to replace the eligibility of corporations and unions providing financial backing for politicians.

It was democracy at it's best, because it meant that all votes count. No longer could you say that you weren't going to bother to cast your ballot because your favourite didn't have a chance to win. At least your vote put a bit of money into their next campaigns.

When the right-wing parties united, they not only eliminated competition for that side of the political spectrum, but they also eliminated the competition for campaign funding. However, all those centre or left of center parties have to battle it out between them for dollars, and during a recession, it may be even more difficult.

The Liberals are doing much better now, but elimination of what amounts to less than $ 2.00 per voting taxpayer, will have a huge impact on the NDP, Bloc and Green parties, who count on these payments to survive.

Yet, here we go again. The Conservatives are about to table another motion, to end the silly notion that Canada is a democratic country. I'm not sure if it's wise to try to choke off left wing parties that help split the vote, making it more difficult for the Liberals to gain ground.

The Tory non-stop attack ads are already turning people away. Though maybe they figure low voter turnout will go in favour of the incumbent. Man Harper must really hate a democracy. He could do so much better with a dictatorship.

Fletcher assigned to push funding cut for parties
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
By: Mia Rabson
August 24, 2009

OTTAWA -- When Prime Minister Stephen Harper's attempt to cut off political party subsidies last year led to a very close brush with defeat, one might have thought the vote-tax debate would be dead and buried.
Think again.

It appears Manitoba cabinet minister Steven Fletcher has been tasked with promoting the idea all over again.

Fletcher -- the minister of state for democratic reform -- has been talking about gearing up to take on the vote tax again. He has indicated it is something his government still plans to pursue.

"We believe that political parties should support themselves with people who voluntarily donate to whichever party they wish to support," said Fletcher. (they do when they vote for the party they wish to support)

Last November, you might remember, Conservative plans to cut off the per-vote subsidy which parties get led to a near meltdown of Parliament. The opposition parties accused the government of trying to use the threat of a recession to kill off its opponents by bankrupting them. Then the Liberals, NDP and Bloc banded together to form a coalition and were prepared to vote down the government and take over.
Only Gov. Gen. Michaƫlle Jean's decision to grant Harper's request to suspend Parliament kept the Conservatives from facing a confidence vote they surely would have lost.

So the fact Fletcher is bringing it up again has the tongues a-wagging.

There is likely one big difference, however.

A year ago, the Liberal Party was absolutely reliant on the money from that allowance. The Liberals raised a little over $5.8 million in direct contributions but received $8.7 million in the per vote subsidy.

The Conservatives, in comparison, raised $21 million in donations and $10.4 million came from the vote tax. Losing $10 million would hurt but they would still have had four times as much money as their nearest opponent.

But with a new leader, a new fundraising plan and at least the appearance so far of a wider appeal with voters, the Liberals' financial fortunes have improved. In the first two quarters of this year the Liberals already surpassed their 2008 fundraising totals, registering $5.9 million in donations with Elections Canada.

Added to that, with the Liberals' 2008 elections showing so dismal, they are bringing in far less in the per-vote subsidy because they got 800,000 fewer votes. In 2009, they will raise $7.2 million in the vote tax subsidy. If they raise another $4 million in the third and fourth quarters, they will no longer be as reliant on the vote tax money.

As well, the Conservatives cutting off the vote tax would not cripple the Liberals finances but would hamper the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, both of which earn more from the vote tax than from donations.

And that would be bad news for the Conservatives, whose victories are in part due to the splitting of votes on the centre-left of the political spectrum.

Some comments at the end of the story:

1. The history of this is that to improve democracy political parties gave up the ability to raise funding from corporations and unions - both of these are now limited under Election Canada rules. To make up for this loss, public financing was instituted so that parties had closer to equal opportunities to put forward their message to the public, based upon the number of votes they received in the most recent election. The minister of state for democratic reform should not be advocating a move that makes campaign financing less democratic! As it is now, every voter is making a contribution with their vote, no matter how poor they might be. Since our first-past-the-post system means that NDP and Green have far fewer seats than their percentage of votes, at least each vote counts for something in financing.

2. Terrible! The amount of money that a party has can greatly influence the result of an election. Without public campaign financing, those that have money that they can spare to donate to a political party, have more influence than those of us who don't. With public campaign financing, parties get financial support based how much support they have from the public as a whole, not how much support they have from the small part of the population who can afford to donate.

3. While thinking scrapping Campaign Finances would sound like a good idea, it isn't. As Overall the NDP, Bloc Quebecois, and the Green party rely heavily on campaign financing(and lesser extend the Liberals) and without these finances Canada would become a two-party system and this would hurt democracy greatly as not ALL opinions would be able to get a voice, no matter how large or little EVERYONE DESERVES REPRESENTATION! As look to the south of the boarder because they don't have something like campaign financing other parties can't get in, and now it's all become who can spend the most money and get the most interest groups. It's not about "what's best for our people". There it's become "In the interest of winning"

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