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Federal Politics

Scrapping the per-vote subsidy: Tories prefer annihilation over mere defeat for Opposition

Image courtesy of CBC.ca

What was I saying yesterday about Harper not being magnanimous in defeat, so why expect it in victory? I can’t think of anything that demonstrates this with more clarity than Harper’s stated obsession with eliminating the per-vote subsidy received by political parties.

Under the current system, which has been in place since 2004, political parties receive $2 per-vote they receive to help re-stock their war chests, as they are called, which often take a shellacking because of expensive election campaigns. The reason for the subsidy? Much the same reason we have equalization payments to the provinces from Ottawa: we are obsessed with keeping things as equal as possible in this country so that as few feathers are ruffled as possible. To that extent, we help parties rebuild after taxing elections (emotionally and economically, not an actual tax) with the aim of supporting all parties equally: the total amount they receive is directly related to the total number of votes cast in their favour. In theory, the subsidy is blind to political ideology.

What Harper has consistently resented about this since his days with the National Citizens Coalition is that it allows parties without as sophisticated a fundraising apparatus as the Conservatives enjoy the opportunity to earn money from taxpayers just for showing up and getting votes. He feels they don’t have to earn it, and therefore it is a waste of taxpayer’s money. Harper also fumes that the money they earn immediately after an election simply goes back into the war chest to help finance yet another – of course, unnecessary – election.

But wait – if Harper had a majority government that ensures him at least four years of governance, a crippled Liberal and Bloc opposition, and the socialist NDP as the ‘government-in-waiting,’ there would be no need to eliminate the subsidy because his fears of the opposition using that subsidy against him would have lost their grounding. Right? If his sole political concern was that this money would be used against the taxpayers by forcing another unwanted election, and now he is in a position where that cannot happen even with a wholly unified opposition across party lines, then what is the reason for moving forward with eliminating the subsidy?

Revenge. Or maybe I am just being melodramatic.

Gerry Nicholls, former NCC executive and Harper aide, worries that with a majority, Harper is moving forward with eliminating the subsidy for other than purely political reasons. As reported in the Globe and Mail, Nicholls concern “’centres on the PM’s motivation’, he said. ‘I fear he isn’t approaching the question based on what’s right or what’s fair or in the name of conservative principle.'”

Really? Might it also have something to do with the fact that Harper and the Tories are in the envious position of being able to raise millions more than the Liberals or the NDP, to say nothing of the Bloc and the Green Party? In 2009, the Tories raised $17M to the Liberals $9M, and the NDP’s $4M. The Bloc raised only $621,000, and the Green Party tally isn’t even mentioned in a different article from the Globe and Mail.

This is the measure of a leader, how they treat their opposition when wielding absolute power. And we should remember that the opposition members are stand-ins for you and I in the House of Commons. We elect them to represent our interests, and this latest action by Stephen Harper sends a clear message to any citizen that did not vote for him: I am not content with simply beating you at the ballot box – I want to humiliate, bankrupt, and cripple your ability to oppose me and my party’s ideology.

This is Tory partisan politics at its worst.


About awreeves

Environmentalist Geography MA Nonfiction MFA Citizen


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