Eliminating the Per Vote Subsidy

Aside from Stephen Harper and regular donors to his Conservative Party, who exactly is demanding that the “per vote” subsidy be eliminated? Aside from those with entirely self-serving reasons of political gain, what group of Canadians feels OUTRAGED! by the fact that a measly $2 of their taxes will be directly funnelled to the political party they voted for at the ballot box?

Conservatives routinely claim that this form of public financing – or “handouts” as they spuriously describe them – is a “waste of tax dollars” that is “wrong on principle” and yet, quite oddly, they have no qualms whatsoever about the fact that donations (up to $1,100 per person) receive a 75% tax credit of the amount given. Under this arrangement, taxpayers effectively subsidize parties they don’t support to the tune of millions of dollars through the back door of the tax code, far above and beyond their measly $2 “per vote” contribution

Lunkhead libertarian Gerry Nicholls proposes a bizarre “solution” to the problem of the “per vote” subsidy: eliminate it completely and then open the floodgates to unlimited personal contributions. Seriously. That’s his proposal. No talk of eliminating the tax deduction at the same time, just let more money flow… thereby giving more influence to the wealthy while subsidizing the vast majority of their contributions from the general revenue.

Truly, it’s hard to believe that Nicholls is actually paid real money to write such asinine tripe in a national newspaper.

21 Comments

Filed under HARPER Government of Canada

21 responses to “Eliminating the Per Vote Subsidy

  1. I’m admittedly closed minded about most things, but when it comes to this issue I really can’t understand where schmucks like Nicholls are coming from. Are there really people that would claim the American party finance model is something to aspire to? Aren’t many things the social sciences can provide a definitive answer to, but the fact that the American political system (and their criminal justice system for that matter) is messed up has been settled for a pretty long time now.

  2. They also don’t see anything wrong with the campaign refund system, which is another subsidy.

    Shiner — I can sort of see Nicholls’s point (although it’s incredibly self-serving and I think he’s leaving out part of his real motive). If you don’t have a $2 subsidy and you do have an $1100 donation limit, then starting a new political party is very difficult indeed — you have to get very big very fast in order to get the necessary funding, rather than rely on a few initial core patrons.

    On the other hand, the logical solution is to go back to the subsidy, rather than throw open the floodgates and let the rich buy off political parties. I have to think Nicholls knows very well the implications of what he’s proposing here.

  3. tofkw

    “Are there really people that would claim the American party finance model is something to aspire to?”

    Are you kidding Shiner? The USA has the best politicians money can buy! Why wouldn’t we want that?

  4. Jeff

    Getting money back on political party contributions still requires supporters to part with their own money in the first place. Then they can deduct a portion of it from their income tax.
    It takes involvement and financial sacrifice on the part of the individual.
    The vote subsidy is just free money from the pile.
    The political system already has loads of subsidies for election expense rebates, tax deductions for donations and loosey-goosey “loans” that can be given and never repaid.
    Enough is enough.
    Getting rid of the subsidy is a good move.

  5. It takes involvement and financial sacrifice on the part of the individual.
    The vote subsidy is just free money from the pile.

    What rubbish. Voting requires involvement too. That donation ends up requiring more of a financial sacrifice from me than from the heroic individual in your scenario. I much prefer subsidising parties based on the expressed preference of your average Canadian than rebating some oil tycoon who’s maxed out the contribution room for his wife and each of his kids. And can we stop acting like there’s something unseemly about using public money for supporting the most public of spheres? “Enough is enough”? Bullocks.

  6. When it comes to integrity on the electoral reform file, the CPC is indisputably the go-to party.

    Hey! How are Harper’s “In-and-Out” electoral fraud charges coming along?

  7. Another body-shot to democracy.

  8. Lars

    I think that you mean “Bollocks”, Sir Francis. “Bullocks” denotes nothing more than large domestic bovids, harmless and inoffensive in themselves. Nothing pejorative about them.

  9. It is not just that the rich could pay off the political parties it is that politicians will be spending much more of their time fundraising. The extreme case is what is happening in the US. According to some, your average US senator spends over 50% of his time fundraising.

    Jeff “The political system already has loads of subsidies for election expense rebates, tax deductions for donations and loosey-goosey “loans” that can be given and never repaid.”

    Indeed, Canada has long subsidized political parties by making political contributions tax deductible and the amount of money being subsidized by the Canadian tax payer is equal to the amount given out to the political party as part of the per vote subsidy. If we are going to eliminate a subsidy, it should be this one.

    However, you are loosing site of the big picture. The amount of money paid to political parties pales when matched up against the cost of politically motivated corporate welfare. Take the Bush drug plan. There is no question that this has cost the US untold billions.

  10. I think you mean “Shiner”, Lars.

  11. Jeff: I would say that political advertising by the government for the government — e.g., millions spent promoting Harper’s “Action Plan” in the run up to the election — constitutes “free money from the pile”…

    That’s nothing unique to Harper or the Conservatives, btw. They’re all guilty of doing that. Why governments should be allowed to spend money on “feel good” self-congratulatory commercials has always mystified me. But I digress.

    My point is that to describe the “per vote” subsidy that way is quite misleading. Whether you like the way its done or not, the fact of the matter is that it’s a token contribution made directly via the ballot box to the voter’s party of choice.

  12. What I like about the per vote subsidy is it gives me incentive to vote for a candidate that is guaranteed to lose my riding. At least I am mollified somewhat that my $2 subsidy goes to the party I want it. The beauty of a per vote subsidy is that only valid votes count. So by voting (or not voting) you control if your tax dollars are used, and where they go. There’s hardly any subsidizing of parties by none-supporters. Why it is an issue at all confuses me.

    But I’ll throw the per-vote subsidy supporters a bone, I’d be willing to drop it if we scrapped the FPTP system.

  13. The most offensive public subsidy is the rebate to EDAs and central campaigns if they get over 10% of the vote. Half – HALF! – of their expenses are reimbursed. If you get 9.999% of the vote, you get nothing reimbursed.

    It is precisely those rebates that the Conservatives tried to use to rip us off $1 million in the In and Out scandal.

    There’s all kinds of ways to reform the per-vote subsidy. Perhaps its biggest problem is that it’s too large, and/or that it lacks a cap. A buck a vote with a cap of $1 million would do the trick.

  14. I think that you mean “Bollocks”, Sir Francis. “Bullocks” denotes nothing more than large domestic bovids, harmless and inoffensive in themselves. Nothing pejorative about them.

    F’ing cows…

  15. Lars

    You’re right, Sir Francis.

    The embarrassment…

  16. nosliw

    “Then they can deduct a portion of it from their income tax.”

    No. It’s a tax credit. You donate $400, taxpayers pick up $300 of it, regardless of your income.

  17. Craig Chamberlain

    I think it goes without saying that attacking the per vote subsidy all the while expecting the taxpayer “funded” tax credit to continue is a contradiction. But there’s more to this for me. I’ve heard the case for the role of the subsidy in helping to create/maintain an accessible party system. OK… but who are we kidding, this is fundraising. How many times have we all heard, vote Green because even though the Greens won’t win a seat in [insert riding of choice], “vote for us ‘cos we get two bucks a vote”.

    And as for the subsidy being necessary or only the rich can have a party — who are we kidding — people without means are not thinking, geez if only we had a twoonie for every vote we got as a party, we sure could change things. We’re talking about a population that the system has screwed over and have ever-immediate things to worry about, so nevermind even thinking about voting. So let’s be real — no one without means is starting a viable, competitive party.

    Having a competitive party takes big dollars. It IS exclusive. Perhaps in time social media can improve the playing field in this regard. But in the meantime, as a party member I also question from time to time if the parties ARE the problem with how we do politics.

  18. trainman

    The per vote subsidy is quite valuable in ensuring that small parties with reasonable levels of support can play a role in Canadian politics. However there should be a cap.

    I think a good compromise would be to provide a $2/vote subsidy up to, say for arguments sake, $2 million dollars. After that, no subsidy. That way, the parties like the greens can maintain an existence, and parties that have more mainstream support can learn to rely on their donors.

  19. In a sense, I’d like to the see the “Conservatives” become more heavily reliant on their donors. That way they might not be able to continue to take their money while at the same time completely ignoring their wishes.

    Such an arrangement would provide some interesting friction, I would think as it becomes increasingly obvious to the evangelical rubes and other nutty constituents of their “base” that they are just being milked for cash and the CPC has no intention whatsoever to enact any of their loopy SoCon proposals that would deprive them of their tenuous hold on power.

  20. Pingback: Personal Donation | Left Right Canada

  21. Pingback: Personal Donation | View From The Middle

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