Pay it forward?

By Gauntlet Editorial Board

The Conservatives proposed to get rid of the subsidy in 2008, but they were only a minority then. During the recent election campaign, Harper promised to abolish per-vote subsidies if the Conservatives won a majority.

Harper believes that each party should be financed through fundraising alone. The dollar amounts garnered from vote subsidies are significant. Two weeks ago, the Conservative party made over $11.6 million in subsidies. $9 million went to the NDP, $5.5 million for the Liberals, and $1.7 for the Bloc. Without vote subsidies, political parties will have to increase fundraising efforts.

There’s merit to the idea. Unable to rely on cheques after every election, parties would be forced to reach out to voters with the hope of encouraging them to donate — a strategy that may increase voter participation. Another bonus is that parties would be discouraged from hurrying into elections. While the major parties spend far more than the subsidies provide, they would be forced to be more cautious, knowing that the money would need to be fundraised.

Former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe criticized the idea before the election, claiming it would hurt smaller parties such as the Greens. It’s unclear if this is true, however. It’s true that the Conservatives — with connections to big business — may benefit more than other parties. But grassroots funding of the type seen during Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign is possible with any party.

So long as appropriate limits on donations are in place (which, of course, are not guaranteed), abandoning the per-vote subsidy is a good change.

. . Gauntlet Editorial Board

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