Thanks for your do­na­tion


The Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party of New­found­land and Labrador has been rais­ing money by the buck­et­fuls in re­cent years. That shouldn’t come as a shock. The party has en­joyed tremen­dous pub­lic sup­port un­der former premier Danny Wil­liams and its cur­rent leader, Premier Kathy Dun­derdale.

It’s also com­mon prac­tice that donors — es­pe­cially large busi­nesses — will throw most of their money at the gov­ern­ing party, and we’ll let you de­cide why that might be the case.

To get a sense of the party’s fundrais­ing suc­cess, take a look at the an­nual re­ports of do­na­tions to po­lit­i­cal par­ties filed online by Elec­tions New­found­land and Labrador.

A vast ma­jor­ity of do­na­tions on the list are for the PC party, and orig­i­nate from such busi­ness giants as Vale Canada Lim­ited, the Bank of Nova Sco­tia, Shop­pers Drug Mart Cor­po­ra­tion, Provin­cial Air­lines Lim­ited, PHB Group Inc., and Pen­necon.

Ocean Choice In­ter­na­tional, for ex­am­ple, do­nated $6,600 to the PC party in 2010.

It makes for in­ter­est­ing read­ing, but the two items that es­pe­cially caught our at­ten­tion last week were the two do­na­tions by the Town of Car­bon­ear. One was for $100, and the sec­ond was for $150. It turns out this was the re­ceipted amount for the $500 paid by the town to pur­chase a ta­ble at a district fundrais­ing din­ner in June 2010. Un­der the rules gov­ern­ing do­na­tions, half the to­tal ex­pen­di­ture was con­sid­ered an ex­pense to pay for the din­ners.

In com­par­i­son to oth­ers, it was a rather small do­na­tion, and we’re not say­ing the town did any­thing wrong, since there are no re­stric­tions on who can do­nate to a po­lit­i­cal party in this prov­ince. The town coun­cil was also wise enough to ap­prove the ex­pen­di­ture in a pub­lic meet­ing, and those con­tacted on this is­sue last week were forth­com­ing in pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion and de­fend­ing their ac­tions.

But we can’t help but won­der why the town sees fit to spend tax­pay­ers’ money to help fill the cof­fers of the provin­cial Tory party. Is this an eth­i­cal use of those funds? Should there be a rule that pre­vents mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties from mak­ing such do­na­tions? How do Car­bon­ear cit­i­zens feel about hav­ing their taxes be­ing spent in such a fash­ion? What do town of­fi­cials ex­pect to get in re­turn for these do­na­tions? Should coun­cil­lors be dig­ging into their own pock­ets if they want to at­tend such par­ti­san events?

These are all valid ques­tions, and we put them out their for cit­i­zens to con­sider.

It’s worth point­ing out that only one other mu­nic­i­pal­ity — Badger — made the list in 2010, keep­ing in mind that only do­na­tions in ex­cess of $100 are pub­lished online. You can bet that many other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are pay­ing for coun­cil­lors to at­tend po­lit­i­cal func­tions, but we don’t hear about them be­cause they don’t cross the mone­tary thresh­old out­lined in the Elec­tions Act.

Per­haps it’s time the prov­ince tight­ened up its po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing leg­is­la­tion, sim­i­lar to what the fed­eral govern­ment has done in re­cent years.

Af­ter all, is it re­ally nec­es­sary that the gate­keep­ers of our tax dol­lars be per­mit­ted to make po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions on our be­half? Shouldn’t that be the in­di­vid­ual choice of each and ev­ery one of us?

— Terry Roberts

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