Thursday, November 27, 2008

Two Bizarre, Confusing Sets of Priorities

Conservatives to cut party subsidies in economic update

As the country seemingly prepares to face down a recession-driven deficit, news reports indicate that the government may be set to cut the subsidies granted to Canadian political parties.

The subsides account for $30 million a year. But they account for a disproportionate amount of each party's total revenues.

At a rate of $1.95 per vote received, these subsidies would pay out $10 million to the Conservative party, $7.7 million to the Liberal party, $4.9 million to the NDP, $2.6 million to the Bloc Quebecois and $1.8 million to the seatless Green party.

The subsidies account for 37% of Conservative party revenues, 63% of the Liberal party's revenues, 57% for the NDP, 86% for the Bloc Quebecois and 65% for the Green party.

For their own part, Green party leader Elizabeth May and Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy have their own theories about the move. Unsurprisingly, their theories make the worst possible assumptions about the move.

"It's a very cynical ploy on Mr Harper's part obviously geared toward bankrupting the Liberal party more than helping out the Canadian taxpayer," May insisted.

"Is this really what we should be talking about, or should we be talking about the real measures that are going to help [Canadians] have a more secure job, more secure pensions and [allow their] savings to grow or at least be more secure?" asked Gerard Kennedy.

Each side of the debate actually has its merits. At $30 million, the subsidy cuts will fall far short of making up any shortfalls in federal revenues. Although it can be argued that every little bit counts, this is a $30 million that could just as well stay where it is.

At the same time, however, it's interesting to consider that the Liberal party -- a party whose members and supporters often seem to think it's entitled to govern indefinitely -- would so desperately need government subsidies simply to stay alive.

It isn't unreasonable to think that any party positioned to potentially govern the country should be able to fund itself through its fundraising efforts. To suggest that the country owes the party a subsidy even during a time of financial crisis suggests a woeful lack of priorities on the part of the Liberal party.

It's only natural that Gerard Kennedy and Eliabeth May would so desperately want to insist that there's a conspiracy to destroy the Liberal party afoot.

While it should be considered that this decision is very much in the Conservative party's favour, the truth regarding any insidious conspiracy is much different: the government is making a poor decision for what will most certainly be poor returns.

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