It’s easy, it’s patriotic, and it’s your constitutional right, but what if you had to make a donation to your favourite party to secure the use of the ballot box? And what if you had to keep paying that party each year, until the next election, even if you weren’t happy with their performance? Federal Elections bill c-24, passed in June, makes these strange suggestions a reality. On June 25, 2003 [v11 i26], Trevor Siwak asked the questions which bill c-25 begs:
When I heard that the Prime Minister wanted to eliminate large corporate donations to political parties, something happened. I felt something I can’t say I had ever felt before: pride, pride in our Prime Minister, pride that he was willing to take a stand against the large corporations which sometimes use money to help manipulate the outcome of elections and then go running for handouts and special attention afterwards. The fact that he came up with this idea after he had benefited from the system is not lost on me, of course. But hey you know what they say, never look a gift Liberal in the mouth.
But then it happened, I let my guard down and I got blindsided. What looked like an attempt to even the political-funding-playing-field, turned out to be foreplay for what might become known as the most generous political reimbursement system in the free world; and the best part of it is, it won’t require as much time an d effort for the parties as the old brown nosing system did. On top of that, it could plausibly sour more voters and lower Canada’s already pathetic average voter turnout. Mr. Prime Minister is so hell bent on pushing this through that he has even threatened to try to hold the Senate back from summer recess, until the bill is given senate approval.
What does the new election financing bill entail? First, a ban on most corporate and union donations; sounds good so far eh? However, we then move on to the second part; it will see each individual MP and riding candidate receive 60% of their election expenses reimbursed in the next election and 50% in following ones. The old reimbursement was only 22.5%. Lastly, it will also see each party receive $1.75 ANNUALLY for each vote they receive, yes that’s annually! That means $1.75 for each vote every year for the four years until the next election. Just in case you are interested, if one applies the result of the 2000 election to this $1.75 formula each party would be getting the following each year, not including the 60% election expense refund:
Liberals: $9.2 million
Canadian Alliance: $5.7 million
Conservatives: $2.7 million
Bloc Quebecois: $2.4 million
NDP: $1.9 million
Adding these reimbursements to the bill will cost 5 million more per year to taxpayers, on top of the original bill’s estimated cost of $120 million over four years. And these are not opposition figures either, these are figures from within the Liberal party itself, from a senior Winnipeg Liberal MP.
At first glance, one who doesn’t care how the government spends our money, might think, great, it sounds fair and even. I mean the theory looks sound; each party gets compensated according to their vote, can’t get much fairer than that can you? However the problem is, in the past, a poorly performing government may lose donations and henceforth the ability to run a good campaign, thereby losing the election as they rightfully should. Now, that same party will always have more money than even its closest competitor, therefore giving them an unfair advantage over the others (almost two times as much in the case of the last election) in the advertising and propaganda field that helps so many people make up their minds when they get to the ballot box. And guess what; they will not even have to work for it by hounding people for money, a process which is the most tedious and hated of all jobs in the political realm. But hey, now maybe those leaders’ dinners won’t have to be so darn pricey, and the common folk who can’t afford $300 a plate will actually get to see their country’s leaders. Don’t hold your breath, though.
Another thing that I feel I should point out to those 55% of you that care enough to peel yourselves from your couches and take 5 minutes to cast a ballot is this, your vote will now cost you $7 per voting family member, remember it’s $1.75 per vote each year after an election ($1.75 x 4 years). Yes you will now essentially have to pay for your right to vote. Just because no one collects the money as you walk through the door, you will still pay for it through your taxes; look at it as kind of a hidden tax on voting. Voting tax, darn I knew there was something they hadn’t taxed yet! What’s next a recycling surcharge to recycle the ballots after they are counted?
At any rate, I can’t think of a better place for that money to go then to the same people who can’t seem to handle it wisely in the first place. On the bright side maybe now people will make a more conscious and careful effort about deciding who they will vote for. I mean its $7! That can go a long way. I could buy a Happy Meal, a Slurpee, and still leave enough money to make a phone call. And that would go further to help and satisfy me than my present MP has. At least I get a toy with my happy meal; my MP has never given me any toys! Maybe I can use the money for the phone call to call and ask him if he has any. My guess is if enough people see it the way it is, paying to vote, our election turnout numbers from the past may actually start to look good.
So there it is! I have found a way to lower government spending and save the taxpayers money. It is simple – the less people who vote, the less money these guys will get, the less it will cost taxpayers, the more money we will save.
However, maybe it would be money better spent if we all paid the $7 and sent these monkeys packing next year, look at it as a positive investment in the country.
Rubec, Stephanie. PM promises public cash for financing, Ottawa Sun; Thursday June 5, 2002. Online Edition.