Saturday, 4 August 2012

Fair playing field a "small issue" to Dan Lett

Should the well off decide which parties & politicians
can and can't get their messages heard?

Removing vote subsidies gives the wealthy few
oversized influence in deciding which parties
can and can't afford to run ads.

Image Source: Gender preferences in
 hiring decisions
Back on July 5 Dan Lett spoke of "rifts" in the NDP.

Party members passed motions at the 2011 and 2012 AGMs to continue accepting the subsidy. Despite this, the executive decided to take a pass. This caused several high-profile members to rebuke the executive for disregarding the motions. It also convinced party president Lorraine Sigurdson to resign her post and not run for re-election. "I have to tell you I'm exceedingly pissed off about it," an angry Susan Hart-Kulbaba, a former MFL president, told delegates at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg. "We don't come here to sit here and make policy and not have it followed."

Publicly calling out the executive is humiliating for Premier Greg Selinger, and a strong signal that he may not have control over his party. Still, it's hard to understand how this issue became the spark for this outburst.

The subsidy was a compromise when the NDP outlawed union and corporate donations. However, since it was introduced four years ago, the opposition Progressive Conservatives have effectively made the subsidy a political hot potato, decrying it as a misuse of public funds and refusing to accept it. The NDP continued to support the subsidy, defending it during last fall's general election campaign.

However, faced with a growing deficit and increasing political pressure to get it under control, Selinger decided now was not the time for the party to continue taking a taxpayer subsidy for election expenses. It was not hard to see the method in Selinger's madness. At a time when he was trying desperately to project an image of austerity, the vote subsidy seemed to be a luxury the taxpayers couldn't afford. Passing on this year's subsidy would in essence take this issue out of the opposition's arsenal.

("Outcry signs of NDP house divided: Small issue turns into embarrassment for Selinger". Dan Lett (June 5, 2012). Winnipeg Free Press.)
Manitoba Club ballroom.

Issues affecting members of "The Original
Social Network" will be different then those
facing most working Manitobans.

Should Manitoba Club members and wealthy
Manitobans have more say in which parties can
afford to run ads than the majority
of working Manitobans?

Image Source: Environmental Space Planning
A, yes, damn those crazy rank and file, grassroots members. The wise party elite knows best, eh? How DARE they challenge the benevolent overlords, because the strategy of triangulating has worked so well south of the border.

The problem, of course, is the precedent this sets and the viewpoints it legitimizes. Per-vote subsidies are apparently a "waste" as Sun Media would have it, not an affirmation of the democratic promise. Manitoba Club type, wealthy donors should decide who has a pulpit to speak from (which advertising money allows), not the wishes of voting Manitobans.

Now, what did Manitoba PC MLA Kelvin Goertzen make of this act of taking the "issue out of the opposition's arsenal"?

Mr. Speaker, since becoming the Leader of the PC Party in April of 2006, the member for Fort Whyte [then Hugh McFadyen] has had the opportunity to travel our province and to meet thousands of Manitobans. Those that have spoken with him personally will have appreciated his sincerity, his depth of understanding of the issues that affect Manitoba and his willingness to stand up for what’s right for Manitoba, and for Manitobans. 
Over the past five years we, as his colleagues, have seen his willingness to identify issues and to take a clear stand on them. He stood up for all Manitobans who saw the routing of the new bipole line as a bad decision. He stood up against the vote tax, Mr. Speaker, and he won that fight.  
("Tribute to Hugh McFadyen". Kevin Goertzen (June 21, 2012).
Should the public or the wealthy few
decide which parties get this?

Image Source: Change the Topic
That's right, folks. The PC MLA is emboldened that a great democratic equalizer has been delegitimized by the fact that the two biggest parties refuse to accept it. The Manitoba NDP, rather than taking a principled stand for democratic financing of elections, rolled over as the Tories pissed all over the great Manitoba measure and principle. This move certainly hasn't defused that official opposition's anti-fair financing passion.
Some - though probably few on the Winnipeg Free Press payroll - may ask that the point of having two Tory parties in Manitoba is. Why not give Manitobans a REAL choice?  

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