Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Manitoba Greens fight for Fair Playing Field

Manitoba Greens are concerned about the
democratic financing of provincial
elections.

Image Source: Wikipedia
The Green Party of Manitoba came out swinging against Today's (Manitoba) NDP's changes to the public financing of provincial campaigns in early June.

As you may recall, the NDP party elite bought hook, line and sinker the Manitoba PC line that democratic financing of elections is a wasteful "vote tax". The NDP - contrary to the wishes of its membership - stopped accepting vote subsidies. This went a long way in delegitimizing the practice.  

The NDP Government is amending the Elections Act to put public financing decisions in the hands of an "independent" commissioner. The amendment is pushed through in Bill C-33 or The Election Financing and Elections Amendment Act.



Schedule A — The Election Financing Act

This Schedule replaces the current Elections Finances Act, and is written and organized to make the Act clearer and easier to understand. It deals with the financing of registered political parties and candidates in relation to provincial elections.

Minor changes have been made throughout the Act to update the law.

In addition, a change has been made in Part 11, which deals with the annual allowance for registered parties. Instead of a formula set out in legislation, the allowance will be determined by a new commissioner.

("THE ELECTION FINANCING ACT AND ELECTIONS AMENDMENT ACT")
Manitoba Government House leader
Jennifer Howard (pictured above) claims that tasking an
allowance commissioner with the public financing
of political parties takes the issue "out of the hands
of politicians".

Politicians in the Cabinet of Manitoba
 effectively appoint the allowance commissioner.

Image Source: The Manitoba Chamber
of Commerce.
Now Government House Leader Jennifer Howard is claiming that this takes "decisions about the public financing out of the hands of politicians" and gives "it to an independent process'.

Now "Part 11: ALLOWANCE FOR REGISTERED PARTIES" of Bill C-33 details how this "independent" allowance commissioner will be chosen. The overview of part 11 of the act makes it clear that the allowance commissioner decides how much allowance registered provincial parities get. Going back to schedule A this clarifies that annual party allowances are no longer based on predetermined, known rules but rather are up to the whims of an appointed allowance commissioner.

Section 80, under part 11, outlines this process.



80 APPOINTING AN ALLOWANCE COMMISSIONER

(1) — LG in C to appoint allowance commissioner 
Within three months after this section comes into force, and within six months after each general election afterwards, the Lieutenant Governor in Council is to appoint a commissioner to decide on the amount of the allowance.

(2) — Consultation with leaders 
An appointment may be made only after consultation with the leaders of the registered parties.

("THE ELECTION FINANCING ACT AND ELECTIONS AMENDMENT ACT")
The Lieutenant Governor in Council - that is the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba in their role as "head" of the Executive Council of Manitoba - the Cabinet of Manitoba - will "consult" with other registered parties' leaders. Having the Lieutenant Governor - in Council  - "officially" appoint the "independent" allowance commissioner is just a silly, weird, and pretentious ritual that relates to our status as a constitutional monarchy. The Head of Government's Cabinet (currently, Premier Selinger's NDP cabinet) will actually decide who's picked for the job.  

This, contrary to Jennifer Howard's claims, isn't really taking the issue "out of the hands of politicians". It's taking the responsibility and accountability off the backs of politicians by using the smokescreen of an "independent" commissioner.

Current Lieutenant Governor of
Manitoba Phillip S. Lee.

The Lieutenant Governor in Council
will appoint the allowance
commissioner after "consulting
with the leaders of registered parties".

Image Source: Wikipedia
This commissioner can arbitrarily decide how much money small parties get. And if one wanted to phase out the per-vote subsidy but was afraid of pissing off the grassroots some more the "indie commissioner" would be the perfect way to go about doing it.

As the Green Party states


The new act puts the issue of annual funding for political parties before an "independent allowance commissioner." The Green Party expresses some skepticism as to the neutrality of an “allowance commissioner” who will be appointed by Cabinet.

Beddome said, “Putting a person that is likely to be a friend of the Government in charge of the distribution of the funds to political parties is like putting a mouse in charge of the cheese factory!”

("Non-Democratic Party Undermining Democracy. Green Party of Manitoba Press Release (June 13, 2012).)
This subsidy has helped the Liberals, Manitoba's third party, remain in the game. Having a preset, non-arbitrary way of funding smaller parties based on their popular support will help keep our system vibrant. The Greens, if their support rises in Wolseley and other areas due to dissatisfaction with the main parties, could really use this help - they can't get big donors with the intoxicating lure of potential patronage, unlike the major parties.

Green Party of Manitoba leader
James Beddome is denouncing
"Today's NDP's" changes to
public financing of Manitoba elections.

Image Source: Bionitech at en.wikipedia
Sadly, it looks like the Tories are content on running an open war on the democratic financing of elections and the provincial Dippers are busy with stealth ways to restrict or perhaps kill it by making it a treat rather than a right.



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