Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dole out subsidies for country club Conservative donations?

The Manitoba Club: Manitobans who
can afford memberships at elite clubs
are more likely to be able to afford
donations to political parties.

Do we really want those with more money
to have more voice? Or is the
democratic vote subsidy better?

Image Source:
Google Streetview

Stumbled across a great Micheal Qaqish article about the implications of the Quebec corruption scandal for the rest of Canada. It's from the summer, but still timely. The main point is that big money in politics leads to big corruption in politics. 

While the circumstances in Quebec may be worse than in the rest of the country, there remain several loopholes that allow for a small number of wealthy individuals to finance politicians to victory. The magnitude isn’t necessarily comparable to George Clooney or a casino mogul throwing multi-million dollar fundraisers for a certain party or candidate, yet pumping any additional sums of private money into politics will make the system more susceptible to corruption.

In that regard, the federal Conservatives set back our democracy when they moved to scrap the most fair and democratic form of political contribution, the per vote subsidy over the next three years. Their rationale was that taxpayers shouldn’t be financing political parties, however the individual or private contributions they support are more costly through their subsidization by taxpayers. Any serious reforms should have the per vote subsidy as the sole source of funding [my emphasis added].

("Quebec corruption probe a national wake up call for campaign finance reform". Michael Quqish (June 26, 2012). Ipolitics)
Crowned Manitoba PC leader Brian Pallister.

Opposes the democratic per vote subsidy yet
doesn't oppose expense reimbursements that
benefit his Conservative party.

Image Source: Alyssa McDonald/Winnipeg Metro

The Pallister CONs in this province have fought tooth and nail against the the democratic financing of Manitoba elections. The Winnipeg Free Press has joined the push against the fair financing of elections, with Dan Lett calling it a "minor issue". All the while the Pallister CONs, just like their Harper CON cousins at the Federal level, are happy as can be getting donations subsidized.

Brian Pallister, for the record, has claimed that there's some big difference between getting expenses reimbursed (which apparently is good) and having parties subsidized based on their popular support (which is bad, for some reason).I have no clue what the difference is - maybe having money doled out based on the decisions of a majority of the population is worse than having money doled out based on the spending decisions of an elite few.

So, is subsiding donations better than giving all voters a say in who gets the dough next election? Should country club Conservatives have more say than hard-working poor janitors, bus drivers, and farmers?

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  1. Except that they whole per vote subsidy is flawed. It rewards the winners and those parties that really don't need the funds and punishes the smaller parties and makes the gap even bigger. If the concept is to work then a)the distribution of funds must be inversely proportional to the number of votes received or there must be a threshold after a certain # of votes you don;t get the subsidy.

    1. While bigger parties get more money, it still helps parties with "small" or "no" representation in the legislature, especially in the case of parties with geographically diffuse support. It also helps [i]popular[/i], mass-based parties without big money backing compete. Smaller parties tend to have a greater percentage of their revenue coming from vote subsidies than larger ones.

    2. So your argument is that vote subsidies are okay because small parties can benefit, who cares how much large parties benefit and how it increases disparity between larger and smaller parties?

      Popular mass based parties such as who? Please don't say NDP, I think you're smart enough to realize that the amount of union donations thy get is equal to if not higher than private donations.

    3. Except that there's a lot of evidence that the vote subsidy actually does help smaller parties a lot more than bigger parties and doesn't widen the gap between them compared to the standard "lobbyist pays the cost of election" system. Maybe capping the amount that parties get after 25,000 votes would be a good policy to ensure equity between the party.

      Manitoba provincial politics and Canadian federal politics haven't had union donations for years. While I'm sure there might be a few rich union bosses (especially in white collar, professional class unions) who can easily afford to give the maximum contribution that's still much less than the number of rich corporate buses who can dole out the maximum funds to whoever they please.

  2. I used to walk past The Manitoba Club & often would see old white guys hanging outside. I always thought of the 2 old rich guys from the movie "Easy Money".