Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on the campaign trail that, if he receives a majority mandate on May 2, his government will end the $2 per-year-per-vote taxpayer subsidy. And that’s a good thing for it will pass more of the burden of directly financing political parties back to their supporters.
Parties like the Bloc Québécois and the Greens will have to make good on their claim that they have genuine supporters and not just a lot of protest votes in Quebec and across the country. Personal political contributions are, after all, subject to a very generous tax credit regardless of taxable income.
The tax refund available depends only on the amount donated to a registered political party. The formula is:
- donations 0f $0 to $400 = a 75% tax refund;
- donations 0f $400 to $750 = $300 plus 50% of the amount over $400 as a tax refund;
- donations 0f $750 = $475 plus 33 1/3% of the amount over $750 up to a maximum of $650 annually as a tax refund.
This is a more generous tax treatment than is available for donations to charities.
Why then do political parties even need an additional federal tax subsidy? The parties with “real” supporters/voters—i.e., committed supporters/voters—don’t, of course, they have member-donations of millions of dollars. The fringe and protest parties have such soft support across Canada that, notwithstanding the 75 per cent tax refund (at average donation levels), they have to depend almost entirely on government subsidies.
Without these taxpayer handouts, most of these fringe and protest parties would never be able to field a full slate of candidates in election after election in anything more than a token manner. And taxpayers would be spared the irritation of seeing parties they do not support receive their hard-earned tax dollars. Moreover, regardless of how many token candidates they run in an election, some parties exist solely to give their leaders a pulpit from which to preach policies that many of us believe would ruin our country.
Let’s be frank, all federal parties depend on their government subsidy, but should they? Think about it. The parties would only need a $2 donation each year from each of their voters to make up the shortfall if the subsidy were stopped. That’s about the same as giving up one cup of coffee or tea each year—hardly a significant financial commitment. If a party’s policies, election platform and overall contribution to Canadian society is not worth a donation of $2 a year from its supporters, does that party even deserve to exist?
Surely, if those casting votes for a party were other than protesting or “parking” their votes, they’d be committed enough to put their own money on their choice. Perhaps it would serve us better to just add a line on the election ballot for a vote for “none of the above” to keep track of the protest vote. We could then scrap the $27-million paid out annually in tax subsidies.