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October 28, 2017 3:05 am

Political parties in Parliament propped up by massive public funding

Friday, August 7, 2015 @ 3:45 AM

By Peter Ewart

Fair Voting BC, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, has issued an interesting report on how public funding props up federal political parties to a shocking level (1). The report was written in response to Prime Minister Harper’s claim that, by doubling the length of the election campaign, he is ensuring that it is “funded by the [political] parties themselves rather than taxpayers.”

In contradiction to Harper’s claim, the report shows that, with the extended campaign, the Conservative Party “stands to recoup a larger amount of [publicly funded] money than they would have with a shorter campaign period.” And, furthermore, they are the only party that will likely benefit from the extended campaign and the higher cap on spending. This is because the Conservatives “war chest” is significantly larger than the other parties. Thus they can spend more and receive a much higher subsidy.

The report illustrates how all the political parties in Parliament have received literally hundreds of millions of dollars from the Canadian public to run their election campaigns, mount attack ads, and so on. Leading up to this election, there are four main ways this has been done:

(1) Per-vote subsidy. Up until 2015, when the final payments were phased out by the Harper government, each party received a “per-vote subsidy” from the Canadian public, with the Conservatives amassing $100 million since 2004; Liberal Party – $75 million; NDP – $55 million; and Green Party – $12 million. The total public subsidy: $242 million.

(2) Tax credits to private donors. In 2014, these public subsidies amounted to: Conservatives – $13 million; Liberals – $10 million; and NDP – $6 million. (#note: some figures not available for Green Party and Bloc Quebecois).   The total public subsidy: $29 million or more.

(3) Reimbursement of campaign expenses. The three main political parties in Parliament get reimbursed over 50% of their campaign costs from the public purse. In this election, Fair Voting BC estimates that this will amount to: Conservatives – $35 million; Liberal Party – $20 million; and NDP – $13 million. The total public subsidy: $68 million.

(4) Use of government advertising budgets. The report points out that “the governing party has access to a significant advertising budget while in office.” This adds up to $500 million over the last 5 years or about $100 million a year. It further notes that “at least some significant portion of this funding could reasonably be considered to be subsidized partisan advertising.” And it gives the example of Cabinet Minister Pierre Poilievre announcing the government’s $3 billion child benefit payment program, while wearing a Conservative Party golf shirt.

The verdict from the Fair Voting BC report: “It is clear that all federal parties are heavily subsidized by the taxpayers, and the Conservative Party much more so than the others.”

What are the implications of this colossal public funding of these political parties? Well, one thing that should be remembered is that political parties are private organizations. Yet, under the current party-dominated system, public funds prop up these private organizations to a great degree. Take away public funding and the party apparatus as currently organized – PR people, staff, advertising, offices, etc. – would collapse.

Unfortunately, under our party-dominated system, who gets left out in the cold are the voters. It is often said that we get one day of democracy and then four years of virtual dictatorship imposed by whichever party has gained power. For those four years, voters as a whole have virtually no mechanisms to exert influence or control over parliament or government.

While it is true that the parties in Parliament compete with one another, it is also true that they work together and act like a cartel that keeps the public out of decision-making and any meaningful input. Even Independents and small parties have an extremely hard time running because the system is gamed to favour the big parties.

For example, Independent candidates, such as Brent Rathgeber of Alberta (a former Conservative MP), are barred from issuing tax credits to donors until an election is called. Yet party riding associations and parties are allowed to do so (2). As a result, while Independents are severely restricted in raising money before an election campaign starts, parties and party riding associations have free rein to gather cash for years in advance. Rathgeber tried to get an amendment into the Fair Elections Act last year that would allow Independents to do the same, but his amendment failed to make it through a Conservative-dominated parliamentary committee. And that is just one example of the bias.

For its manipulation and undermining of the democratic process, of which there are abundant examples, many Canadians quite rightly want to throw out the current Conservative government, just as the Liberals were quite rightly thrown out in 2006. But we also need to go beyond that aim and address the glaring problems in the electoral system, especially party domination. Without doing so, we will face the same problems no matter who is elected.

One solution: Stop funding political parties with public funds. Why should we, the public, be paying for noxious and defamatory attack ads that debase politics? Or for any other expenses that these private clubs called parties incur?

Instead fund the electoral process itself. Bring in mechanisms that even the playing field in terms of equal access to advertising, media, and other candidate expenses. Take all special interest or private funding right out of the picture. Have candidates – whether connected to a large party, small party or no party – judged on their merit and ideas, rather than the size of their bankroll.

In addition, bring in mechanisms that give the public more control over MPs and more input in decision-making. Break the stranglehold of parties and party whips over elected members of parliament.

And there are other possible solutions to be considered.

In summary, as the evidence in the Fair Voting BC report shows, we face a systemic problem with our current electoral system. This election provides an opportune time to discuss alternatives and solutions.

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca

  • Markusoff, Jason. “The happiest politician in Canada?” Maclean’s. Aug. 4, 2015.


Even that one day of democracy has been corrupted by the harper government . Can we even trust that anymore? We also need to audit the MPs expenses . Why are the senators open to audits and yet the MPs are not ?

And , when a politician says the election will not cost the taxpayers anything . He is a bald faced liar and so are the useful idiots that repeat his lie .

“In contradiction to Harper’s claim,….etc”

This might persuade those who still claimed that Harper’s statement was correct into realizing that it was indeed false.

First we complained about Unions and Corporations funding political parties, so we changed the system and made that illegal. We now fund these parties through contributions by individuals, and by public funding.

Seems the three main parties in Canada ie; Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP enjoy a huge amount of public funding to run their campaigns.

So, we have a system that for all intents and purposes works pretty good. I can see how some people would not like it, especially when the party in Government would get more money than the others, however once those on the outside looking in, got inside and started looking out, they would change their tune.

I appreciate the difficulty that Independents face under the present funding system, however that is something that the present parties can change if they chose.

The key to our system of Government is to be involved in a political party and work to make changes within that party. Canadians are not very active politically in the party system, and basically sit on their butts and let the politicians do whatever they want. Citizens themselves through apathy are responsible for the sad state of affairs in politics in Canada. If Canadians would get more involved, then the system would change.

I would make a wager that the percentage on Canadian Citizens who actually correspond, or talk to their elected representatives is negligible. Rather, we elect these representatives, and then immediately after they are elected, we start crying that they do not represent us, but represent the party, however we do absolutely nothing about it.

One thing we could do, is tear a strip off our elected representative and put pressure on him to represent us. Hmmmmm wonder if that will ever happen.

There is not even mention of political parties in the Constitution… or the PMO for that matter.

Elizabeth May addresses these issues and more in her book Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy, (MacLelland and Stewart, 2009)

Just 74 days until STOP HARPER DAY!

The extra cost to the public purse for this election is due to the length of the campaign period. The minimum is just over five weeks (37 days), but this one is 11 weeks (77 days). That increses the amount it costs since reimbursement is tied to the amount spent, which is tied to the number of days of campaigning.

With the commitment to fixed election dates, which I tend to approve, there should be a fixed campaign period as well. No politician should be able to arrange any part of an election to suit his own party’s interests. Set a legislated campaign period of between five and six weeks (35-42 days), and reimburse only for that period.

Do the same for by-elections. Pass the authority for calling them to Elections Canada and not at the whim of the PM, and set both a campaign period and when a by-election must be called by legislation.

Who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the huge influx of spending during an election? The corporate media. How do they assure that kind of money does not contribute to a FUNDamental bias?

That is like allowing pipeline companies to advertise during NEWS programming.

deMOCKracy served!

All parties have the same opportunity to raise money. Sorry electioneering did not just start on the day the writ was dropped. I could be mistaken but no party has brought forth reform for independents because that would be against their own interests.

The three outside parties continuously show they are not ready for the big time.

The Koch brothers are the largest tarsands lease holders . That says it all .they own Stevie .

If Koch owns Stevie it must be through the back door. Corporations and unions can’t donate to political parties a change in the law made by Stevie. So if you have evidence Koch has paid off the Prime minister you should share it with the RCMP.

ski51. Don’t try to talk sense to Ataloss he is beyond Hope.

Stephen Harper was 16 years old when the Koch’s started to invest in oil in Alberta. So of course it was all Stephens fault.

Palopu , that’s just wrong . The Koch brothers didn’t pay for the tar leases . Their father did . It’s actually you that is beyond hope because you don’t research before you post .

Ski have you heard the Fraser institute or third party advertising or ethical oil etc.etc.etc. the Koch brothers buy governments around the world . Why would you think their hand is not in our country’s politics . This is where their daddy made his money . There is a great deal more going on in the champaign than what goes on the books .

Here in point number 1 the Liberals added per vote funding on their way out, the conservatives couldn’t get rid of it until 2011 when they amassed a majority and people cry how they cost taxpayers millions. Open your eyes, they just saved taxpayers hundreds of millions. Be tougher for them to raise money only relying on private donors to a max of 1,200 a year.

Point number 2, these dollars do not go to the parties. Private individuals can only deduct up to 1,200 per year from their taxable income from the donation. Not a subsidy, they gave the money away so we don’t charge them tax on it, same as if they gave it to the Catholic Church.

Point 3, estimates for something that hasn’t happened yet, what if the “subsidy” is less or the same as elections past? That can be an legitimate estimate as well – who is right? Once the election is over we will know. Will they formally apologize and make reparations if they are wrong? Highly doubt it.

Point 4 was made by Harper in his address when he called the election which everyone here on this blog uses erroneously in an effort to show that Harper said “it won’t cost taxpayers a dime”

Debate was a dud, noone said anything that isn’t out in the media already, with the exception of Mulcair when asked by May to “join her” against Kinder Morgan and he waffled an answer, at least she stayed off the sauce. Trudeau was feisty but still said nothing new. Harper watched his back from “et tu Brute”

Watch the debate starting at 1:37:20 and watch it for 30 seconds.

www. youtube.com/watch?v=hSf2__qpeGA

So who exactly are Yakunin and Sechin? Why have they been left off Canada’s sanction blacklist? The answer is both of these Russian business leaders, who have close ties to Vladimir Putin, are also closely tied to Canada’s corporate business community. One is affiliated with Bombardier, and the other affiliated with an oil company doing business in the Alberta Tar Sands. Both of these individuals have been blacklisted last year by the U.S. as part of the Obama administration’s widening efforts to retaliate for Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year.

Both of these individuals, among others, are not allowed to travel to America and their assets there have been frozen. Yet you know what? Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson has described Canada’s regime of sanctions against Russia as being among the toughest in the world when it comes to the Ukraine crisis. Just more lies… however this does demonstrate how much influence Corporations have in Harper Government foreign policy when it comes to protecting their business interests. Good ole Harper, talks tough to Vladimir Putin, but lets his friends with business ties to Canada off the hook.

www. cbc.ca/news/business/russian-tycoon-with-bombardier-ties-left-off-sanctions-list-1.3118769

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