Conservatives to campaign on end to political subsidies
When Pierre Poilievre appeared on CTV's Power Play recently, host Tom Clark was notably disappointed when Poilievre mused about the Conservative Party taking on the opposition parties over per-vote political subsidies, then declined to announce they would table legislation in the house.
Clark may be less disappointed today, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office has confirmed that the Tories will campaign against per-vote subsidies during the next federal election.
This comes after opposition parties voted to end the privilege for MPs to mail ten percenters outside of their riding.
"The position of our government is clear. If all the parties wish to abolish this particular subsidy for mailings outside of an MP's own riding, of course this party would be delighted to do that. Of course, we would also like to see the $30-million direct tax subsidy to political parties abolished," Harper announced.
Some may recall that it was the Harper government's last move to eliminate the per-vote subsidy that led to the ill-fated Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition push. But with the coalition effective redudiated by Canadians, one may wonder precisely what the opposition would do about such an arrangement.
Interestingly enough, Tom Flanagan suggests that the per-vote subsidy should be replaced with some measure that would allow the opposition parties to receive a comparable level of funding.
"As much as I applaud that, there would be bound to be a backlash from that," Flanagan predicted. "The media would beat you up for deliberately bankrupting your competition and I think the blowback from that would be pretty intense, so if they are going to do it, they have to find some practical way of replacing at least a substantial portion of the lost revenue."
"It's hard to find an approach that would yield the amount of money that's equal to the subsidies unless you go back to some level of corporate donations or raising the level on individual donations," Flanagan continued. "The other one is a taxpayer check-off system, which is used in the United States."
For his own part, Minister of Democratic Reform Steven Fletcher doesn't seem to think that any replacement of the subsidy is necessary at all.
"We believe that the per-vote subsidy is not necessary, particularly in these tough economic times," Fletcher insisted. "People voluntarily donate to political parties in Canada. That's one of the problems with the per-vote subsidy, is that it's not a voluntary donation."
As Tasha Kheirddin points out, however, abolishing the per-vote subsidy would require the Conservatives to win a majority government.
"If the Conservatives fail to get a majority, this promise will be impossible to keep, as other parties will want to keep riding that public gravy train," Kheirridin writes. "And while this pledge may be a vote getter, it’s hard to see it as the defining issue of a campaign, with so many other things on the table."
Indeed, it seems unlikely that Canadians will grant the Conservative Party a majority government based on a $30 million budget line item.
But as much as the last desperate hold-overs from the pro-coalition crowd (those who have yet to realize the folly of dealing with a regressive separatist party) may hold out hope that Layton and Ignatieff will threaten a coalition again, or even try to pull it off, it's simply incredibly unlikely.
Other bloggers writing about this topic:
Walker Morrow - "Pro-active Voter Apathy. I Like That Strategy."
Chrystal Ocean - "Per-Vote Subsidy is Baaaack!"