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Politics As Calvinball

Tories to end taxpayer subsidies of political parties

Yes, yes, lean times, austerity, economic meltdown, MY TAX DOLLARS, adapt to new campaign finance landscapes or die, etc. I can't be the only one who thinks whatever justification the Tories will offer for axing the drop-in-the-bucket $1.75/vote subsidy will ring hollow next to the quaint perception that changing the rules of the game specifically to cripple your opponents went out of style in elementary school.

Let's recap: after a $300 million election of choice on the eve of financial Armageddon, in which everyone hoping to compete against him had to borrow against the subsidy income they were going to receive, Harper then turns around and says "whoops, we can't afford that subsidy, even though it costs one-tenth as much as the election we didn't actually need to have. Have fun paying your debts! And feel free to oppose this...if you want another election."

New spirit of co-operation in Parliament, indeed. Sigh.


( Walk among 14 shadows — Cast a shadow )
Nov. 27th, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC)
Exactly, sir. Exactly.
Nov. 27th, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC)
In order to save the country, we had to destroy it.
Nov. 27th, 2008 02:57 pm (UTC)
I mean, ideally all parties should fundraise from grassroots small domations like the Conservatives do (which is part of why the Obama campaign was so impressive, and why I'm a fan of Chretien's campaign finance reforms in general), and in my ideal world the subsidy would be unnecessary - but while we have our ridiculously persistent and unfair electoral system that effectively throws out the majority of the votes, there needs to be some actual benefit to voting one's conscience instead of strategically.

Would Harper be PM today if there was less reason to vote for, say, the Greens, over whichever of the three main opposition parties was most likely to win wherever you were?
Nov. 27th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
Grassroots funding is great, one can't knock it, but I don't see anything wrong with the subsidy either. Would its absence have made a different this last election? In terms of voting returns on election day, all other things being equal, I don't know. It's anybody's guess. But it sure would have made a difference in the campaigns prior to the election, and I think that would have had a significant impact come election day.
Nov. 27th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
That was me.
Nov. 27th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
The case against it, aside from general austerity, is this idea that tax dollars shouldn't fund political parties in general (or, perhaps more specifically, that all party funding should come from voluntary donations).

I sort of like this idea, but I can sort of reconcile these because voting is a voluntary act that triggers an extra $2 - the fact that this $2 doesn't come directly from you is really beside the point.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 27th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
Even absent a direct dependency upon contributors for future electoral support, private financing certainly corrupts the system by allowing money to buy crucially important exposure during and outside of campaign-time, which exposure would be disproportionate to parties less capable of achieving as much wealth-donation. I think it's essential to distinguish between financial support and political legitimacy. They are not linked factors. (Well, in practice, the certainly are. In theory, in a democracy, they should not be.)

This is particularly aggravating at the Canadian national level, where corporate and union donations are banned (or mostly so). I'm not in favour of those institutions necessarily being able to buy support, but at the same time, if individuals can contribute according to their personal levels of wealth, why not aggregates of individuals?

I think private funding should be eliminated as much possible. In practice, it may be impossible to entirely eliminate, though.
Nov. 28th, 2008 01:22 am (UTC)
Individuals can only contribute according to their personal wealth to a limited degree, though - up to whatever cap exists. Set that cap low enough, and you can address the issue of rich individuals being able to influence political parties more than poorer ones can, and defang the linkage between financial support and political legitimacy - if financial support correlates more-or-less-directly to popular support, then the linkage can be tolerated.

The problem with letting organised aggregates of individuals donate (as opposed to the less-organised aggregates that are inevitable if individual donations are allowed at all) is the inevitable consequence that spaz_own_joo points out above - money is power, and a corporate (in the general sense) entity that can bring enough money to the table will have power, whatever their intentions.
Nov. 28th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
Set that cap low enough, and you can address the issue of rich individuals being able to influence political parties more than poorer ones can, and defang the linkage between financial support and political legitimacy - if financial support correlates more-or-less-directly to popular support, then the linkage can be tolerated.

Well, what's the point, then?
Nov. 28th, 2008 01:53 am (UTC)
A populace that actually cares enough to support political causes with their wallets is not something I want to discourage, if it's at all possible to limit the negative effects it would have left unchecked.
Nov. 28th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
I really don't see why money is important to political legitimacy or capability.
Nov. 28th, 2008 02:45 am (UTC)
I feel like I'm missing something obvious in your definition of "legitimacy", but I'll take a stab nonetheless. To be seen as a legitimate political alternative requires a) good ideas and b) exposure for these ideas, enough for a) to become c) popular ideas that can vault you into Parliament to attempt to implement them. (note: a) is often optional)

While, yes, the Internet makes it less true now than ever that b) requires money, it's still true enough that money remains an important way to advance a party towards being taken seriously.
Nov. 28th, 2008 02:49 am (UTC)
Yes, obviously money needs to be spent to campaign, but why does a party *have* to raise that money from people? Why can't it be doled out from a fixed pool fund on an equitable basis? Why do parties need to raise funds from private donors?
Nov. 28th, 2008 03:05 am (UTC)
I think the imperative you're looking for isn't "parties have the right to be funded by private individuals" as much as "people have the right be able to fund parties", and that goes back to various property rights and general liberties (and, to a lesser degree, the unfortunate "money as speech" doctrine that hamstrings campaign finance reform in the States.)

So the question to ask is, "Does the benefit to our democracy that a 'complete ban' on private donations provides over 'restrictions' justify the impairment to individual rights?" And there, I guess, my dividing line isn't quite as far towards "complete ban" as yours.
( Walk among 14 shadows — Cast a shadow )