Sub­si­dies to po­lit­i­cal par­ties must be axed

Seaway News - - EDITORIAL& OPINIONS - Sul­tan Jessa

Sooner or later there will be a fed­eral elec­tion in Canada. The time has come for Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper to show real lead­er­ship. It was tried once be­fore but had to be with­drawn be­cause of strong op­po­si­tion.

The mi­nor­ity Con­ser­va­tives must make an­other bold at­tempt to elim­i­nate the pub­lic sub­si­dies that Canada’s five ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties re­ceive. This move, if suc­cess­ful, will save the coun­try $30mil­lion a year. Of course, it could also crip­ple some op­po­si­tion par­ties that do not have the abil­ity to fundraise.

Among the po­lit­i­cal par­ties re­ceiv­ing sub­si­dies is Bloc Que­be­cois, a party de­ter­mined to de­stroy united Canada. Bloc Que­be­cois leader Gilles Du­ceppe re­cently dis­trib­uted a let­ter to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, urg­ing them to pre­pare for an­other ref­er­en­dum on Que­bec sovereignty. He said the prov­ince is on a path that leads to the breakup of Canada. What is most shock­ing about this is the let­ter was printed on House of Com­mons sta­tion­ary fea­tur­ing Canada’s coat of arms. This let­ter was sent in English, French and Span­ish.

I am sur­prised there is no na­tion­wide out­cry about Du­ceppe mis­us­ing his priv­i­leges as an MP. The plan was quickly aban­doned when the Lib­er­als, the New Demo­cratic Party and Bloc Que­be­cois ganged to­gether and threat­ened to top­ple the mi­nor­ity govern­ment.

It is widely be­lieved the Tories will try once again to end tax­payer sub­si­dies for po­lit­i­cal par­ties. This is­sue is still on the govern­ment’s agenda.

The Bloc holds 40 to 50 seats in the Cana­dian Par­lia­ment. These MPs are sub­si­dized by Cana­dian tax­pay­ers.

At present, par­ties re­ceive $1.95 for ev­ery vote they re­ceive in a fed­eral elec­tion, pro­vided they win at least two per cent of the na­tion­wide pop­u­lar vote. The an­nual sub­sidy is used to pay for staff and ex­penses.

The Con­ser­va­tives earned $10-mil­lion in sub­si­dies, com­pared to $7.7 mil­lion for the Lib­er­als, $4.9 mil­lion for the NDP, $2.6-mil­lion for the Bloc Que­be­cois and $1.8 mil­lion for the Greens.

How­ever, the Con­ser­va­tives raise more money from Cana­di­ans than any other party. The Con­ser­va­tives are good at fundrais­ing. Their sub­sidy rep­re­sents only 37 per cent of the party’s to­tal rev­enues. By com­par­i­son, the sub­sidy amounts to 63 per cent for the Lib­er­als, 86 per cent for the Block, 57 per cent for the NDP and 65 per cent for the Greens.

If the par­ties can­not raise enough money by them­selves, then it should not be run­ning. This is­sue was met with a near con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis in De­cem­ber 2008 when the govern­ment im­posed this mea­sure in an eco­nomic and fis­cal update.

The time has come for po­lit­i­cal par­ties to raise their own money. The Lib­er­als and the New Demo­cratic Party have had more suc­cess in rais­ing funds on their own. If po­lit­i­cal par­ties want to make an im­pres­sion on Cana­di­ans, they must show they are ca­pa­ble of rais­ing funds na­tion­ally. At a time of large deficits, they should not be re­ly­ing on the govern­ment for sub­si­dies. This will make po­lit­i­cal par­ties more ac­count­able, more ac­tive and palat­able to tax­pay­ers. If a cer­tain po­lit­i­cal party is not able to raise the money, then it is clear Cana­di­ans are not flock­ing to join that party.

Abol­ish­ing sub­si­dies will help Canada get back on the right track to build­ing up re­serves and get rid of the deficit it built up dur­ing the re­ces­sion. Why should a tax­payer in Bri­tish Columbia con­trib­ute money to the Bloc, which has only one man­date in mind to break up Canada?

The Bloc only cam­paigns in Que­bec and only elects mem­bers in that prov­ince. It is not a na­tional party. It is time the Bloc get into the busi­ness of fundrais­ing if it wants to main­tain its base in Que­bec. It does not make any sense why Cana­dian tax­pay­ers should sub­si­dize the PQ. It will not be fair to pay sub­si­dies to other par­ties and ex­clude the Bloc. This will only give sep­a­ratists in Que­bec an­other rea­son to cry foul and man­u­fac­ture more rea­sons why Que­bec should sep­a­rate from the rest of the coun­try. The sub­sidy should be abol­ished for all the par­ties. There should be no ex­cep­tion to this. This idea is great and the pub­lic will rally be­hind it. Harper should bring back this is­sue.

The al­lowances were in­tro­duced in 2004, as part of Jean Chre­tien’s bill that elim­i­nated cor­po­rate and labour con­tri­bu­tions to par­ties while cap­ping in­di­vid­ual con­tri­bu­tions at $5,000. This was later dropped to $1,000. I feel all the po­lit­i­cal par­ties should work to­gether to get rid of the sub­si­dies.

The most re­cent re­port from Elec­tions Canada re­veals that ev­ery ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party now has a sig­nif­i­cant in­di­vid­ual donor base.



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