Full Comment over at the National Post’s website carried a piece by John Ivison recently, which reminds us that:
“The annual [Elections Canada] returns for 2009 underlined the fund-raising gap between the main [federal] parties. The Conservatives raised $17-million from 101,000 donors; the Liberals raised $9-million from 38,000 donors, while the NDP raised $4-million from 24,000 contributors.”
With Elections Canada expected to release new financial reports for the main federal parties on Monday, Ivison reports that sources in Ottawa say the Liberals raised only $1.5-million in the third quarter of this year virtually the same as the NDP. In the same timeframe, the Tories brought in about $4-million, and, apparently, several of the Tory appeals were made after the failure of their attempt to kill the long-gun registry.
It is quite clear to me who the party of the elite is: it’s the Liberal Party of Canada. For decades, the Grits depended on large contributions from well-to-do individuals and organizations—contributions of the size that used to buy influence in Ottawa. Inexplicably, former PM Jean Chrétien put an end to most of the influence peddling as way of fattening his party’s purse and replaced it with subsidies from taxpayers. PM Stephen Harper further tightened the rules and lowered the annual contribution to $1,100.
Since those changes took effect, Liberal fund-raising has plummeted with some improvement lately, while the Tories—with a larger base of contributors of more modest means but greater commitment to their party—have flourished financially.
In 2009, 101,000 Tory supporters gave a modest $168 average contribution. The Grits received a more generous $237 average donation from only 38,000 supporters. Grits are more affluent, of course, but there are much fewer of them who are financially committed to their party.
I’d like a return to the system whereby political parties are fully supported by their membership—the Conservatives have proven this is a viable thing to do. If a party cannot drum up financial support for its ideas, then those ideas are probably not worth prattling on about to the electorate every four years.
We should drop the $1.95 per vote annual government subsidy each political party gets, and reduce the income tax deduction they benefit from to the same level that charities get.
Perhaps if parties have to be self-supporting, members will demand a better quality of candidate for their money. If someone wants to run for parliament, they’d better have the sort of ideas voters will support with their pocket books.
Government subsidies have allowed the continued existence of two (of only five) national federal parties, the Bloc and the Greens. These would be very different entities if they weren’t on the dole.
Perhaps we could put this to a national vote and see how these political welfare bums make out.