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LETTER – Per-vote subsidies best way to finance election campaigns for parties

RE: FORSETH – As Big Three parties feed at the trough, others are left in the cold (Posted on January 29, 2018).

Contrary to Forseth’s assertion, per-vote subsidies are the most democratic way to finance elections campaigns for parties. Getting rid of corporate donations was a good step toward improving our democratic processes, but we need to go further. If we continue to allow parties to rely on fundraising from private donors, the end result is that the rich will determine who wins, and which policies are implemented. Per vote subsidies tie the money that parties get to the number of people who support them, and the cost to us all is very modest.

Forseth states that “Government should not be subsidizing parties.” But he’s missing a larger point: WE, the taxpayers, are paying either way, because we fund the generous 75% tax credits that individual donors get for political donations.

But Forseth apparently thinks those subsidies are just fine. Why complain about per-vote subsidies and ignore the fact that we are paying for tax credits to political donors? It makes no sense, and it harms the more economically-challenged among us the most.

If we don’t use publicly funded per-vote subsidies, the less well-off among us are doubly disadvantaged: poorer people can’t afford to make direct donations to political candidates, and therefore have less influence; at the same time, poorer people are subsidizing the priorities of rich people because, like it or not, we all pay our share of the tax credits that political donors get for their donation. This is madness, from an equality and a representation perspective.

A side point: Forseth makes it sound like the feds have never used per vote subsidies, but in fact they were the norm federally until the Harper Conservatives ditched them (again, because their party had better access to the deep pockets of corporations and lobbyists than the others).

When the party which has held power for most of the past several decades crows about how “unfair” per-vote subsidies are for taxpayers, I think we need to look at bit deeper at the motives behind their position. Sadly, more often than not, we realize that their “outrage” is blatantly self-serving. Now that corporations can no longer donate to election campaigns, party hacks are even more intent on preserving the ability of their wealthy private donors to skew elections through individual donations.

If the BC Libs are so strongly opposed to per-vote subsidies, I would second Forseth’s suggestion that they refuse the money and donate it to something useful: hospitals, schools, or maybe drug treatment centres. Instead, they have floated the idea of using it to fund the fight against proportional representation — how very convenient for them.

Getting rid of per-vote subsidies would force the BC Libs to play on a level playing field based on their level of popular support — you can see why they don’t like that idea. It’s exactly why they are opposed to updating our electoral system (despite not even using it for their own party leader elections anymore): it would mean that the unfair systems which for decades have worked to their advantage would be made fairer for all.

Per vote subsidies and electoral reform are not attention-grabbers. However, I sincerely hope that enough people will think past the superficial spin which is flying about in the media to look at how these issues actually affect VOTERS, not political PARTIES. Because in the end, voters’ best interest should come first.

GISELA RUCKERT
Kamloops

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About Mel Rothenburger (5944 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on LETTER – Per-vote subsidies best way to finance election campaigns for parties

  1. Wow … there is a lot to cover, so let me at the outset say, I am glad corporate and union donations have been banned, I had long advocated for this, as well as a number of other democratic reform issues — this should have been done a LONG time ago

    Gisela Ruckert states, “Per vote subsidies tie the money that parties get to the number of people who support them, and the cost to us all is very modest”

    WRONG. Parties have to attain a certain percentage of the vote before they are eligible to receive the taxpayer funded subsidy. That means ONLY the NDP, Green Party, and the Liberals are getting this revenue. Do you have any idea how many parties are out there? Many of them did run candidates — but they did not receive enough votes to gain access to this funding.

    So tell me Gisela, who would be more in need of receiving per-vote-subsidies? Is it the well established parties — or smaller ones starting out, or with a small niche area of concern they wish to present to voters?

    ALSO, as I mentioned, what about people who are running as independent candidates; who is subsidizing their campaigns? The very nature of this undemocratic process ensures they get nothing. Does that make sense to you?

    Did you know, or were you aware, that the per-vote subsidy program is not permanent. It was only meant to be a bridging process so that the Liberals, NDP, and Green Party had an opportunity to fill up their bank accounts with taxpayer money, to replace the union, out-of-country, and corporate donations they had been receiving.

    YES, I am well aware that there is a tax deduction process in place — and guess what — it will still be there even with the per vote subsidy program. The government never intended for it to be replaced — it will still be there along side of the per-vote subsidy. Can you say, “Double Dipping”?

    I actually do want to see a program in place that is more democratic; my point is that this is not it.

    Instead, let’s ask British Columbians what they feel would be a reasonable maximum amount for an individual to donate to any party, or independent candidate.

    In looking over Green party policy, I saw where they (after a review) would be happy to still accept donations from individuals of over $7,500 (http://www.bcgreens.ca/b_c_green_party_political_finance_policy). Personally, that seems excessive to me, but let’s ask the question.

    Finally, I agree with you Gisella, “Per vote subsidies and electoral reform are not attention-grabbers” Nor it seems, is a thorough review of promises that are made by all political parties, at election time.

    Sadly, that is a shame because as you stated, ” … in the end, voters’ best interest should come first.”

  2. Nothing better than a good counterpunch…errr counterpoint…will Alan Forseth be able to recover?
    The local conservatives should rejoice to the idea of proportional representation…they finally could grab a few seats in the legislature at last!

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