Thursday, September 10, 2009

Think of It as an Electoral Stimulus Package

The $300 million tab on an election puts off many people, and is a concern oft mentioned by those opposed to an election in the recent future. They cite times of economic stability that prerequisite political stability. What if we thought of all this spending as a stimulus package instead? After all, elections are good for the economy. Candidates spend around $120 billion in their local constituencies. What's more, elections are also good for the job market, temporarily taking thousands of workers off the unemployment rolls, being hired by Elections Canada instead.

The Toronto Star had a good article on this yesterday:

A look through individual candidates' 2008 receipts – available by appointment at Elections Canada – reveals the flurry of local largesse: pizza shops, printing houses, bus companies, computer stores, community newspapers, flower shops and a host of other suppliers all cashed in.

Elections Canada also hires thousands of temporary workers, Dungan notes, which could prove timely in this autumn of rising unemployment.

"You might say there are more creative ways of doing that, but it does stimulate the economy," said the professor.

"The idea that it's a complete waste is not true."

Elections Canada says it spent $280 million on the October 2008 vote, a cost that comes directly out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The figure is in line with two previous elections. The June 2004 vote cost $274 million, while January 2006 cost $272 million.

Elections Canada covers the cost of hiring workers, leasing office space for returning officers, renting polling stations, training field staff, printing ballots and voters lists, advertising, and information technology – plus reimbursing candidates and parties to the tune of about $60 million.

That reimbursement is based on a 50 per cent rebate of campaign expenses of candidates and parties. So it is safe to assume at least another $60 million – most of it taxpayer-subsidized in one way or another – is also pumped into the economy during the six-week election period.
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