Yesterday, Stephen Harper brought a campaign issue that literally no one else was thinking about. He informed the public that a Harper majority government would remove the per0vote subsidy that political parties receive. He tried to look moderate in doing so, suggesting that the subsidy would be phased out over three years. And while this is better than his now infamous plans in 2008, it is still an attack on democracy. Why? Because this subsidy helps to eliminate the influence of rich donors in politics. And guess who would benefit from rich individuals' donations being a greater share of the whole of party funding? That's right, the Conservatives.
The per vote subsidy allocates money solely based on how many votes a party received. It does not vary based on how rich the voters are. This means that parties like the NDP, based on lower-middle class voters, benefit significantly. Their supporters are less likely to be able to donate in the same amounts as the Conservatives' supporters. So the public subsidy levels the playing field. After all, if we have some parties based partly on these economic divides, the party with the richer supporters will have more funding than those with the less well off supporters, unless some public funding is provided. This is the raison d'etre of the per vote subsidy. Clearly Harper wants to benefit from increasing the importance of the donations he receives from his rich donators as a proportion of the funds going to all parties. This will undermine democracy, giving the Conservatives an advantage over other parties.
The Harper defense of an action that serves to skew the political playing field in his favour is two-fold: he maintains that we don't need 3 public subsidies to parties and that the state shouldn't be supporting parties that taxpayers don't want to support themselves. The 3 subsidies are the per vote one, the reimbursement of 50% of electoral expenses nationally and 60% locally, and the income tax credit of up to 75% given to donators to political parties.
However, as you might have guessed, the two latter subsidies do not help to level the playing field as much as the per vote subsidy. The reimbursement benefits most the parties that have the most expenses, and thus in general those who had lots of money to begin with. Furthermore, the local reimbursement of 60% requires having received 10% of the vote in the constituency. This hurts smaller parties like the Greens.
As for the income tax credit, it clearly helps most the parties that have the richest donors and thus the largest total of donations. To benefit from an income tax credit, you have to already be receiving money. Guess which party receives the most and thus benefits the most? The Conservatives.
Due to the influence of these latter two subsidies, the Bloc received 5.91 of public finance per vote, the Greens 4.59, the Liberals 7.75, the NDP 7.87 and the Conservatives 8.11 So these latter two subsidies that Harper are inherently less than perfectly democratic. The one that is, the per vote subsidy, is the one he wants to get rid of.
Doing so would clearly benefit Stephen Harper. There is no other motive. The idea that the state should not pay for services that taxpayers don't pay for themselves would eliminate countless programs. Is Harper about to eliminate healthcare for young people who would not buy it if it were left up to them? No. Why? Because doing that would not skew the political playing field in his favour.
Here's a radical idea. How about the state be the sole provider of funding to political parties? This could be done on a bracket system. The top 5 parties in the past election would receive the same amount, the next 5 would receive another amount, and so on. That would make each voice equally loud. That would eliminate any skewing effect of money in politics. Just an idea. Rather than undermining democracy, we could be building it up.
So both these latter forms
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- ▼ April (5)