While everybody is screaming about Chavecito and his perfectly democratic and constitutional law reforms down in Venezuela, a sneak thief of Torydom up here is doing his damnedest to cut the guts out of ours without anyone knowing. And if it hadn’t been for the Internets, and a Facebook group called I Support Public Campaign Financing, I’m sure fewer of us would know about this:
Of course, this bland logic completely skips over the fact that the Tories tend to woo the rich corporatist types, who count on them to push through “reforms” that benefit only one small sector of society–THEMSELVES.It also ignores something else:
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attempt to cut off political party subsidies last year led to a very close brush with defeat, one might have thought the vote-tax debate would be dead and buried.Think again.It appears Manitoba cabinet minister Steven Fletcher has been tasked with promoting the idea all over again.Fletcher — the minister of state for democratic reform — has been talking about gearing up to take on the vote tax again. He has indicated it is something his government still plans to pursue.“We believe that political parties should support themselves with people who voluntarily donate to whichever party they wish to support,” said Fletcher.
Meaning, guess who would stand to LOSE the next election?Now, I should come clean–I am not a Liberal voter. The current party is not the party of Pierre Trudeau, who patriated the Constitution and gave us our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These Liberals smell too much like Tory Lite. They are too centrist for me; too much talk and too little action on the social-issues front, and weak on the environment too (except for maybe Stéphane Dion, bless him and his dog, Kyoto.) I’ve been voting NDP for the past decade or so because they’re the ones with the best combo of red and green. And yes, I’ve done it with the full awareness that they tend to split the progressive vote (oh, like the Greens don’t?) and enable the Tories, as vote-splitting in Germany did for a certain Austrian PFC in Germany during the 1930s, to be first past the post despite losing the popular vote. If nothing else, voting NDP gives me a chance to say “Look, this Lib/Con duopoly is a farce–and here are the alternative votes to prove it.” Besides, I’ve voted Lib before–holding my nose the entire time. They still lost. That was it for me. Ever since then, I’ve voted my conscience.And if you think that protest-vote element is a waste, you’re missing more than just a few screws. The NDP have gained popularity, seats and even a new provincial government recently, and for anyone to claim they are only useful as a vote-splitter is to ignore the huge disaffectation that decade upon decade of red/blue spit-swapping and general inaction is generating. Add to that the ballooning Harper deficit, plus a recession (generated on Harpo’s watch, while he and his fundie-fruitcake parliament were busy hitching their wagon to Dubya’s death star), and the rising cost of living (gee, do you think privatization had anything to do with that?) and the poor quality of services received (ditto) and I’d say there’s something very important for Jack Layton and Co. to capitalize upon. It could be the 1930s all over again, when hard times turned a lot of minds not-so-lightly toward socialism. If they can firm up their progressive agenda beyond vague talk, they’d have a real fighting chance. They might even surprise everybody by collecting lots of mom-and-pop donations, Obama style (remember, Obama’s campaign folks were at the recent NDP convo in Halifax) and if that happened, it would be even worse news for the Tories–and Iggy, too, who is just Harpo Lite at the end of the day. So, what is to be done in the meantime? Well, if this bad penny comes up in Parliament again, I think we’ll be seeing something like this, only this time, in earnest:
A year ago, the Liberal Party was absolutely reliant on the money from that allowance. The Liberals raised a little over $5.8 million in direct contributions but received $8.7 million in the per vote subsidy.The Conservatives, in comparison, raised $21 million in donations and $10.4 million came from the vote tax. Losing $10 million would hurt but they would still have had four times as much money as their nearest opponent.But with a new leader, a new fundraising plan and at least the appearance so far of a wider appeal with voters, the Liberals’ financial fortunes have improved. In the first two quarters of this year the Liberals already surpassed their 2008 fundraising totals, registering $5.9 million in donations with Elections Canada.Added to that, with the Liberals’ 2008 elections showing so dismal, they are bringing in far less in the per-vote subsidy because they got 800,000 fewer votes. In 2009, they will raise $7.2 million in the vote tax subsidy. If they raise another $4 million in the third and fourth quarters, they will no longer be as reliant on the vote tax money.
And this time, I don’t think our lovely and talented Governor-General will be in any mood to prorogue. Especially if hundreds of thousands of angry Canadians converge on Parliament HIll to ask, not so rhetorically, where the hell their votes have gone.
Last November, you might remember, Conservative plans to cut off the per-vote subsidy which parties get led to a near meltdown of Parliament. The opposition parties accused the government of trying to use the threat of a recession to kill off its opponents by bankrupting them. Then the Liberals, NDP and Bloc banded together to form a coalition and were prepared to vote down the government and take over.