|The Parties are Over
by Jacqueline Salit
The Conservatives are ready to re-visit the issue of subsidies for political parties, a welcome assertion of the importance of individuals in the political syst
From Monday’s Globe and Mail Published on Sunday, Jun. 20, 2010 10:00PM EDT Last updated on Monday, Jun. 21, 2010 12:28PM EDT
The Conservatives are ready to re-visit the issue of subsidies for political parties, a welcome assertion of the importance of individuals in the political system, and a necessary move given the subsidy’s failure to make politics cleaner or more inclusive.
The subsidy gives political parties that got at least 2 per cent of the vote in the last general election $1.95 per year for every vote they received. Dimitri Soudas, Stephen Harper’s director of communications, told La Presse recently that the elimination of the subsidy would be “written in black and white” in the Conserative Party’s next electoral platform. Continue reading
Canadians’ tax dollars are being used legally but quite flagrantly to finance a party that wants to break up the country
From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail Published on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010 5:00AM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010 1:46PM EDT
The law of unintended consequences can be seen by a quick reference to Elections Canada’s website.
There, details of party financing are revealed. The story of those details shows how the Liberals have been hurt by their own legislation, and how the Bloc Québécois has walked away the big winner from public financing of parties. Continue reading
March 15, 2010
“By silencing her caucus, Horwath probably did assert her leadership and avoid potential rifts. But, in the doing, she backpedalled from some of the long-standing, and laudable, traditions of her party.
And she gave the young another reason to roll their eyes at a business where fearless minds and independent voices need not apply.”
There are at least two ways of looking at any issue. And Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was likely getting eyed from a couple of angles for ordering her MPPs not to participate in a forum on whether the province should end public funding of Catholic schools.
On the one hand, Horwath – just a year on the job as leader – demonstrated authority, discipline and a wary eye for what’s historically been an incendiary issue. Continue reading
“Consider what happens now when you elect someone to go to Ottawa.
No sooner have they spent their first term in office than they’re emailing home to explain why they voted for something their constituents didn’t want.
The reason, of course, is party discipline. They’re “whipped,” i.e., told to vote with their party or else leave caucus. Most stay and do what they’re told. Without the party, it’s very difficult to get re-elected.”
February 22, 2010
See also the British proposal to elect the members of the House of Lords.
Senator Elaine McCoy
Stephen Harper has for several years now claimed that his proposed reforms for the Canadian Senate are about bringing accountability and democracy to the much-maligned second chamber.
With his most recent prorogation of Parliament, however, it is clear that for all his rhetoric, his reforms are less about a thoughtful reinvigoration of our political institutions and more about maintaining political power. Continue reading
“Today, no voter’s mind is changed by what is said in Parliament, partly because free and informed debate no longer occurs in Parliament and partly because party discipline and the concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office precludes members from speaking honestly. Parliament, in short, is little more than an unedifying charade.”
Don’t forget the comments.
What public function does Parliament serve? Give up?
From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Feb. 09, 2010 6:48PM EST Last updated on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010 9:36AM EST
As prorogued parliamentarians twiddle their thumbs, the time is right for voters to ask themselves: Do we need Parliament? Continue reading
Note the following comment on this article:
“This is fascinating. Not sure what the legal basis of this decision was, but this is a great victory for democracy in Canada. Each of the Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties are (under their constitutions allowed) to appoint who they want as candidates in any riding. This is how Michael Ignatieff won his seat in Parliament.
The parties have forgotten that Parliamentary democracy is not about the Party but about Parliament. Parliament is made up of MPs which are elected to represent their individual ridings. MPs are not elected to “do the bidding” of the party in power. MPs are elected to represent the constituents in the riding.
Many years ago, MPs started out as Independents – they were beholden to their riding. As Scott Brown put it in his recent victory in the Massachusetts Senate Election, when asked how he would feel in Ted Kennedy’s seat, he said:
“With due respect, it’s not the Teddy Kennedy’s seat. It’s not the Democrat’s seat. It’s the people’s seat!”
The seat in Parliament belongs to the people in that riding. It does not belong to the member and it does not belong to the party. There is a disturbing trend of MPs “crossing the floor”. MPs who “cross the floor” seem to thing that, the seat belongs to them. Wrong. “It’s the people’s seat.”
A party that comes in and overrides the wishes of local riding associations is exhibiting a contempt for the people in the riding.
If parties are allowed to swoop in and decree who is the candidate in the riding, there is no point in having a Parliament at all.
As it stands now, MPs are required to vote the party line. If they don’t they will thrown out of the party. Remember Bill Casey!
Next election – vote for an independent.
Independents are the only candidates who represent the interests of the riding!”
CALGARY — Canadian Press Published on Friday, Mar. 16, 2007 2:15PM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2009 10:20PM EDT
An Alberta judge has overturned the controversial Tory acclamation of Calgary MP Rob Anders and ordered a new nomination meeting.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Jed Hawco issued a court order instructing the Conservative Party of Canada to restart the nomination process in Calgary West.
Eleven disgruntled Tories have been fighting Anders’ unchallenged nomination since last summer, claiming the party did not widely advertise important dates or adequately search for qualified candidates.
Robert Hawkes, lawyer for the anti-Anders group, says the ruling is a “good thing” for all Conservative party members.
But because of a potentially imminent federal election, it’s unclear whether there will be enough time for the Calgary constituency to hold another 30-day nomination process.
Mr. Anders has won the Calgary seat four times in a row — each with large majorities — but his time in office has been dogged by controversy. He once made headlines by dismissing former South African president Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and a communist.
As a Republican who also defied the pundits’ expectations by winning the governor’s seat in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, I was pleased, but not surprised, by Tuesday’s election results.
U.S. senator-elect Scott Brown may have driven his pickup truck around the state to campaign, but it was a wave of voter discontent that he skillfully rode all the way in on election day like a champion surfer.
No Republican can win statewide in Massachusetts without building a broad coalition of Democratic and independent voters. By travelling the state and listening to those voters, in their kitchens and storefronts, and yes, in front of Fenway Park on a frosty winter day – as his opponent Martha Coakley famously scoffed about – Mr. Brown heard the deep concern the citizens of Massachusetts are feeling about the direction of both the federal and state governments.
“I can stop it.” Think about those four words echoing across a debate stage and you know Scott Brown was listening to voters when he said them. Voters were deeply concerned about the national health care reform bill. It would have harmed Massachusetts’ vibrant health-care industry, cut Medicare for seniors and undermined the quality of care. And voters knew Massachusetts didn’t need it because the legislature had already passed a reform bill that brought insurance coverage to almost every citizen in the state, a reform Mr. Brown voted for when he served in the State House. Mr. Brown had, well, let’s call it the “audacity of hope,” to sign his name followed by a #41 – in other words, the GOP’s 41st vote – for enthusiastic crowds in the campaign’s closing days because voters wanted to send a message to Washington on health care: “Not so far, not so fast.”
I also think the state’s voters wanted to send two other messages to leaders in Washington and Boston: “Focus on jobs” and “stop spending.”
While they worried about keeping their paycheques, or worse, when their unemployment cheques would run out with no jobs in sight, Washington was engaged in partisan posturing and a massive expansion of government. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton won in 1992 by famously sticking with one campaign theme: “It’s the economy, stupid.” It still is.
Finally, America is a country at war. Voters were freshly reminded of that reality after a Christmas Day attempt to bomb an airliner over Detroit. Mr. Brown, a long-time member of the National Guard, didn’t mince words when he sided with many Americans in asserting that suspected terrorists do not deserve the same rights as American citizens. His opponent, however, was rightly admonished in the media for asserting there were no more terrorists in Afghanistan.
That was just one mistake in Ms. Coakley’s campaign. There were others, including the tactical error of bringing President Barack Obama to campaign with her last weekend. Generally, voters in special elections are active Democrats and Republicans. Given that Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one in Massachusetts, that was a huge advantage for Ms. Coakley. But the President’s visit and resulting media attention was like shining a huge spotlight on a sign for unenrolled voters, who make up just over 50 per cent of the state electorate: “Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday!” And vote they did, in record numbers, for Scott Brown.
However, campaigns aren’t won because an opponent runs a bad one. Campaigns are won because the winning candidate runs a great one.
As Americans, and our Canadian neighbours, begin to see Mr. Brown on the national stage, they will see a strong, compassionate, effective and relentless leader. A great applause line on the campaign was this simple: “I’m Scott Brown. I live in Wrentham. And I drive a truck.” Voters understood that he knew exactly who he was and exactly what he believed. Even more simply put – they liked him.
So what does this mean for Congress, the Obama administration and incumbent politicians elsewhere in the United States? It’s a wake up call. The country’s voters are angry. They want change. They want non-partisan solutions to big problems facing America. They want government to live within its means. They want leaders focused on jobs. They want leaders willing to make tough decisions.
In short, they want the promise of “Yes we can” delivered upon. No matter the political affiliation, the election of Mr. Brown meant this: If elected officials show they “can’t,” or worse, “won’t,” the voters will.
Paul Cellucci is former U.S. ambassador to Canada.
Don’t forget the comments.
Did you know that the separatists in Quebec are funded through your hard earned money? A tax free democracy is possible only by voting for an independent candidate.
Political parties dependent on public handouts: study
Kevin Libin, National Post
January 23, 2010
Calgary — The tax handouts for political parties created by former prime minister Jean Chrétien have relieved taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars, relieved the Bloc Québécois of having to fundraise, and cursed Canadians to a life of never-ending election campaigns — but getting rid of them, as the Conservatives want to do, is likely unrealistic, says a new study co-authored by a former Tory campaign manager.
The report by Tom Flanagan and David Coletto, to be released today by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, concludes that while the Conservatives continue to promise to eliminate the $1.95-per-vote allowance Elections Canada doles out to federal parties every quarter, any attempt to end the program is bound to leave party organizations financially “crippled,” without the ability to make up the lost funds through fundraising.
“Given all the difficulties, this may not be the time to try and replace the system,” says Mr. Flanagan, a political science professor who formerly served as Stephen Harper’s chief-of-staff and national campaign manager for the Conservatives. (Mr. Coletto is his PhD student.)
Although the Conservatives would suffer least were the subsidy cancelled (they earn the largest portion of their revenue from small, individual donations) – suggesting that their motive could have been partly animated by a beggar-thy-neighbour instinct – history shows Conservative fundraising support won’t always be so strong, Mr. Flanagan warns.
See FUNDING on Page A8
“Things change. You shouldn’t really design systems around temporary conditions,” he says.
One of Mr. Chrétien’s final policy flourishes in 2003 was to drain corporate and union donations from party politics, as well as tightly cap individual donations, replacing the money with public funds tied to each party’s vote-count in the previous election. “More public contribution to meet the requirements of every party is a very small price to pay in order to have a very substantial reform of political financing,” Mr. Chrétien said, arguing that his reforms – pushed through amid opposition from within his own caucus and little consultation with other parties – would “make all the political parties less dependent on contributions from the industrial sector” and avoid American-scale election spending.
Mr. Harper, once elected, added yet more donation restrictions under 2006’s Accountability Act. But the Tories remain opposed to the public allowance.
“We believe that political parties should support themselves with people who voluntarily donate to whichever party they wish to support,” Steven Fletcher, Minister of State for Democratic Reform, said in August. A Conservative proposal to cut the funding in November 2008 galvanized opposition leaders into a coalition aimed at unseating the minority government.
While Mr. Chrétien’s policy advisor, Eddie Goldenberg, had promised that public subsidies under Bill C-24 would be revenue neutral when held up against the donations that parties would be forfeiting, in reality, all parties are collecting far more today from their Elections Canada cheques, even after inflation adjustments, than they ever did before.
Parties now collect, on average, roughly 50% more from public funds than they gave up under the new limits on corporate, union and large personal donations, the study calculates: The Bloc Québécois raised less than $1-million in corporate donations in the four years prior to C-24, but collected more than $12-million in public funds in the four years after.
“The Bloc has all this dough; they never have to fundraise again,” says Stephen LeDrew, a Toronto radio host who, as president of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2003, publicly battled Mr. Chrétien over the reforms he called as “dumb as a bag of hammers.”
Though the study examined potential alternatives to the quarterly allowance – a return to capped corporate and union donations, more generous tax write-offs for individual donations, and an American-style “check-off” system, allowing tax filers to indicate on their return whether they want to direct some public money to their favourite party – they all would fall considerably short of replacing the subsidies upon which political organizations now rely, the authors calculated.
It’s little wonder parties have become hooked on the subsidies to the point where removing them now could be devastating, Mr. LeDrew says. “Money is the mother’s milk of politics. Taxpayers’ money is the mother’s milk with a drop of scotch in it.”
As it happens, one unforeseen result of party organizations enjoying such a steady, lucrative cash flow, Mr. Flanagan says, is the emergence of a “permanent campaign” model, with party organizations now keeping their war-rooms open, keeping up voter identification campaigns, and increasingly running ads targeting opponents between election periods: a “campaign virtually all the time.”
Still, Duff Conacher, co-ordinator of the Ottawa-based advocacy group Democracy Watch, says that, compared to all other models, the taxpayer allowance is the best system for keeping moneyed influence out of politics. “There isn’t a more democratic way to do it,” he says.
And with no ready alternative, the Tories might be better to stick merely with adjusting levers in the existing system, Mr. Flanagan suggests: they could look at reducing the $1.95 per vote allowance, allowing small businesses to contribute, or readjusting tax credits for individual donations. “Changing it now is going to be harder than passing it.” But he’s firm that whatever alterations they have in mind should not be undertaken without a consensus among the major federal parties. “I think it’s bad policy to do any of these changes unilaterally. This is where the Liberals got us on the wrong track; the Liberals pushed through their changes.” The Conservatives have only followed suit. And while gaming the election system in their own favour may be any party’s natural instinct, Mr. Flanagan says, it’s no way to run a democracy.