Yesterday, as you probably know (I first read about it on Beth’s site), Finance Minister Jim Flaherty gave a financial update of sorts in the House of Commons. I’m not an economist, so I won’t speculate on the pros and cons of the Conservatives’ no-stimulus stance. I am, however, interested in talking about their proposed cuts to political subsidies.
I’d kind of forgotten about these subsidies, so here’s a little summary from the CBC:
Parties currently receive $1.95 for every vote they receive in a federal election, provided they win at least two per cent of the nationwide popular vote. The annual subsidy is used to pay for staff and expenses.
On the surface, it would appear Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have the most to lose if subsidies were cut because they garnered the most votes in the October election. The Conservatives earned $10 million in subsidies, compared to $7.7 million for the Liberals, $4.9 million for the NDP, $2.6 million for the Bloc QuÃƒÂ©bÃƒÂ©cois and $1.8 million for the Greens.
But because the Conservatives have such a strong fundraising base, their subsidy represents only 37 per cent of the party’s total revenues. By comparison, the subsidy amounts to 63 per cent of the Liberals’ funding, 86 per cent of the Bloc’s, 57 per cent of the NDP’s and 65 per cent of the Greens’.
There is also, it’s worth noting, a $1000 cap on donations from unions, corporations and other organizations.
When the Liberals introduced this plan in 2003, I thought it was a terrifically democratic idea. Not only does it make each vote more meaningful, but it enables smaller and fringe parties to have a little more money to work with. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation supports the cuts, saying:
“It’s absurd that Canadian taxpayers are forced to subsidize through their taxes, political parties that they do not support, especially in the case of the Bloc Quebecois — a party that seeks to break up our country.”
I disagree. What could be more democratic than giving resources to all of the political voices, even the country’s critics? I don’t want my politicians beholden to corporate interests to the degree they are in the US.
In any case, there’s a great deal of sturm und drang in Ottawa about the proposed budget cuts. They amount, I gather, to about $50 million. The Conservatives knew this would be hugely controversial, and that it would look like they were exploiting home field advantage. Is their strategy backfiring (a bit like their cuts to the arts), or do they have a bigger picture in mind?