PO­LIT­I­CAL PAR­TIES’ SUB­SI­DIES A STRETCH?

Doubts cast over COVID-19’S hit on do­na­tions

Windsor Star - - NP - RYAN TUMILTY

OT­TAWA • Some of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties claim­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s wage sub­sidy are com­par­ing their lows of 2020 to elec­tion-year highs of 2019 in or­der to jus­tify get­ting the tax­payer cash to pay their em­ploy­ees.

The Lib­er­als, Con­ser­va­tives, Greens and NDP all claimed the Canada Emer­gency Wage sub­sidy (CEWS), cit­ing ma­jor drops in do­na­tions due to the pan­demic. But fi­nan­cial re­ports re­leased last week show the drops aren’t that un­usual, as par­ties of­ten take in less money when an elec­tion isn’t on the hori­zon.

Ac­cord­ing to the Elec­tions Canada fil­ings, the NDP took in $1.3 mil­lion in do­na­tions in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2020, which en­com­passes April, May and June, the same time frame as the ini­tial fed­eral wage sub­sidy. In 2019, the party took in $1.4 mil­lion, mean­ing their rev­enues were only slightly lower than they were a year ago.

The fed­eral wage sub­sidy re­quires em­ploy­ers to show a 30 per cent drop in rev­enues to qual­ify for the tax­payer money to sup­ple­ment up to 75 per cent of their pay­roll.

The NDP’S na­tional di­rec­tor Anne Mc­grath said the wage sub­sidy is about help­ing work­ers stay em­ployed, which is ex­actly what they are do­ing with it.

“This pro­gram isn’t about any one busi­ness or or­ga­ni­za­tion. It’s about making sure that work­ers are able to keep their jobs dur­ing these tough times,” she said in an email to the Na­tional Post. “Our num­bers are still clearly down from where they would oth­er­wise have been and all of our staff have been able to keep their jobs and keep pro­vid­ing for their fam­i­lies.”

Party of­fi­cials said de­spite the re­sults for the end of the quar­ter, do­na­tions dropped con­sid­er­ably in the early months of the pan­demic, but re­bounded later, which they at­tribute to the party’s per­for­mance in the House of Com­mons.

Par­ties nor­mally take in more money in an elec­tion year and the NDP is no dif­fer­ent. The $1.3 mil­lion they brought in dur­ing the pan­demic in 2020 is ac­tu­ally higher than the roughly $872,000 they col­lected in the same time frame in 2018.

The Lib­er­als saw their rev­enues fall by roughly half this year af­ter bring­ing in $5 mil­lion in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2019, just ahead of the fall cam­paign. They brought in $2.6 mil­lion this year.

But when that $2.6 mil­lion is com­pared with the $3.1 mil­lion they re­ceived in 2018, a non-elec­tion year, it’s a much smaller drop, not enough to qual­ify for the wage sub­sidy.

Ac­cord­ing to the party, the Lib­er­als have re­ceived $842,856 in fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, help­ing cover the salaries of more than 80 peo­ple.

“The party has not been forced to lay any­one off due to the im­pacts of COVID-19 at this time, which en­sures that team mem­bers like trans­la­tors, IT pro­fes­sion­als, and lo­cal field or­ga­niz­ers can con­tinue to sup­port vi­tal demo­cratic en­gage­ment work and their own fam­i­lies through this dif­fi­cult time,” said Brae­den Ca­ley in an email to the Post.

The party has sus­pended in-per­son events and said March and April were its low­est months for do­na­tions since 2014.

The Green Party would also be un­likely to qual­ify for the wage sub­sidy if their 2020 to­tals were com­pared against a nor­mal year in­stead of an elec­tion year. The party raised $626,000 in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2020, down from the same time in 2019 when they raised $1.4 mil­lion, but ac­tu­ally higher than the $572,000 they gar­nered in 2018.

Rosie Emery, the party’s press sec­re­tary, said they stopped tak­ing the sub­sidy in July, but the party in­tends to keep an eye on do­na­tions in case there is a drop. “We will con­tinue to mon­i­tor our rev­enues from month to month, and are open to ap­ply­ing again if we are el­i­gi­ble.”

The Con­ser­va­tives are the only party who would have been el­i­gi­ble for the sub­sidy if their do­na­tions were com­pared to a non-elec­tion year. The party took in $3.5 mil­lion in the sec­ond quar­ter of this year, com­pared with $8.5 mil­lion in 2019 and $6 mil­lion in 2018.

The Con­ser­va­tives are cur­rently in a lead­er­ship race, an event that nor­mally siphons funds away from a party’s main op­er­a­tions, with dol­lars now go­ing to lead­er­ship con­tenders Peter Mackay, Erin O’toole, Les­lyn Lewis and Derek Sloan.

In the sec­ond quar­ter of 2017, when the party’s last lead­er­ship race was un­der­way it raised $4 mil­lion.

This year’s to­tal is a his­toric low for the Con­ser­va­tive party, and spokesper­son Cory Hann said the wage sub­sidy has al­lowed them to cover ap­prox­i­mately 60 full-time and part-time to­tal staff across Canada dur­ing a dif­fi­cult time.

The el­i­gi­bil­ity spanned from March 5 un­til July 4, and Hann said the party hasn’t yet de­cided if it will ap­ply again.

Aaron Wu­drick, fed­eral di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian Tax­pay­ers Fed­er­a­tion said this is fur­ther proof po­lit­i­cal par­ties should not have been el­i­gi­ble for the wage sub­sidy. “I don’t think any­one en­vi­sioned when they came up with this pro­gram that it was for po­lit­i­cal par­ties,” he said.

He said they shouldn’t be bas­ing their el­i­gi­bil­ity by com­par­ing rev­enue de­clines this year to 2019.

“Ev­ery­one knows, and it has al­ways been his­tor­i­cally the case, that par­ties raise more money in an elec­tion year.”

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