“Thomas Hobbes pointed out in his book Leviathan that the emergence of political parties in British parliamentary life was the worst thing to happen to democracy there. Parties need money, money leads to favours, favours lead to watered down legislation and outside influence over policy. Parties lead to party discipline which does not necessarily reflect the views of MPs. Ban political parties I say.”
– a concerned citizen
Where Do Independent Candidates Fit Into Elections? – A Surprising History
Politics in Canada is dominated by political parties. The dominant parties are registered. The dominant parties noisy. “Independents and unregistered parties” have been crowded out. Most people think that politics in Canada is the same as “party politics” and “registered party politics” at that. This is a gross misconception. Let’s look at the history of elections in Canada.
In The Beginning There Were Independents …
Sit down. Read the Constitution of Canada. Read the Charter of Rights. You will not find a single mention of a political party. You will find references to elections and the right to vote.
Canada has a “Westminster style” parliamentary democracy. This means that when Canadians vote they are electing a parliament. Each of Canada’s 308 (and counting) ridings has the right to elect a member to represent that riding in the House of Commons. In the early days all MPs were Independents. Their duty was to the riding that elected them.
Conclusion: Independent candidates are not members of voting coalitions and do not depend on funds from the taxpayers of Canada.
Independents were followed by Unregistered Political Parties
Political parties have always been “voting coalitions”. The purpose of Parliament is (as you well know) to make laws. But, laws were the result of MPs voting on the merits of legislation. It was natural for those Independent MPs to seek alliances with other “like minded” MPs. Eventually these voting collations received names. These names were things like “Conservative”, “Liberal”, etc. It was not until 1970 the Canada Elections Act was amended so that:
- Political parties (voting alliances) were formally recognized and;
- The Political affiliation of a candidate could be shown on the ballot.
The Canada Elections Act defines a political party as:
“an organization one of whose fundamental purposes is to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election.”
There no requirement that a political party register with Elections Canada. The existence of a party is not dependent on registration. Forming and registering a federal political party are two different things. There is no legislation regulating the formation of federal political parties.
Conclusion: Unregistered political parties are voting alliances that have not taken the step of registering with Elections Canada. They do not have any of the benefits that are given to registered political parties. Unregistered parties are voting coalitions that are NOT regulated by Elections Canada. Unregistered parties do not receive the same benefits from the taxpayers that registered parties have.
The Next Step – The Birth of The Registered Political Party – A Tax On Democracy
In 1974, the Canada Elections Act was amended to allow political parties to register with Elections Canada. Why would a political party do this? Why deal with the Elections Canada bureaucracy? One of the answers is money. Only registered political parties have a right to have their parties funded by the taxpayers of Canada. The taxpayers of Canada fund the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc, NDP and Green Party (among others). You may know that the registered parties receive $1.95 for each vote that one of their candidates receives in an election.
This taxpayer subsidy is of vital importance to registered parties. In December of 2008 the Conservative Government of Stephen Harper introduced legislation which would have removed this subsidy from the registered parties. The Liberals, NDP and Bloc were not pleased. It took the threat of the removal of their $1.95 subsidy to prompt them to replace the government. A coalition was formed which almost had the effect of bring the government down and installing a coalition government. Clearly the primary benefit to registering a political party is – surprise (who could have known) – money from the taxpayers.
(This post is updated on August 18/09: Green Party candidate, Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu, in a post titled “Defend Per-Vote Funding” wrote a rather good account of the number of different ways in which the taxpayers of Canada fund the political parties. Tom Flanagan recently wrote an argument in favor of abolishing “Per Vote Funding”. You should read both perspectives on this issue.)
It is one thing to form “voting alliances” and call it a party. It is quite another to take the next step of getting the people oof Canada to pay for your party.
Conclusion: Registered political parties are voting coalitions that are a tax on the citizens of Canada. Furthermore, the primary registered parties require MPs to vote along party lines without regard to the interests of the riding.
|..||Independents||Non-Registered party||Registered Party|
|Tax on Canadians||No||No||Yes|
|Tax on Canadians|
Examples of Tax Free Independent Candidates – Bill Casey, David Marler
Examples of Tax Free Unregistered Parties – Democracy Party of Canada
Examples of Taxable Registered Parties – Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, etc.
Join The Independents Movement – Vote Independent – Save Your Money!
There is no charge. We would ask that (assuming you believe in our principles) that you email this page to your friends and anyone else who you believe is tired of top down, autocratic, party rule.
Registered political parties receive money from you the taxpayers to fund their day-to-day operations. We don’t think that Canadian taxpayers should be forced to contribute to political parties. Shouldn’t democracy be tax free? What would Thomas Hobbes say?