View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Can you spare a dime? January 6, 2011

Ottawa ON – Here we go again; political parties will be receiving their latest handout from Elections Canada, courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer.

Our political establishment will receive roughly $6.9 million of your tax dollars divided up as follows: Conservatives $2,609,418, Liberals $1,819,999, New Democrats $1,260,002, Bloc $691,289, Greens $469,686. Keep in mind that this is only one of 3 instalments that they receive.

I have heard all the phoney arguments about this being good for democracy, but is it really? Is it any better than paying out money or grants to special interest groups to popularize their positions?

The three main parties have no excuse for needing taxpayers dollars. They have been around long enough to have established the fundraising mechanisms necessary to raise sufficient funds for their operations. If they can’t, it says more about poor organization, and more importantly poor political platforms and leadership than it does about the current law which restricts who can donate etc. If nothing else, removing the taxpayer funding will force them to streamline their operations, improve their fundraising mechanism and pay attention to issues that matter both to Canadians and their membership. To ignore that reality would mean that your fundraising would be unsuccessful and you would have to cut back your operations. You would get a pretty quick wake-up call to refocus on what mattered to Canadians and your membership

It may even force the Liberals and NDP to take a long hard look at whether or not they can continue to go along their merry way as separate parties. A shock I know, unite the left instead of unite the right for a change.

The Bloc and the Greens are in a slightly different position. I am always thrilled to know that my hard earned tax dollars are going to support the Bloc, a party that wants to destroy my country. Let them try to do it on their own dime. As this is a democracy and they are a legitimate party, let them raise funds from people who support their cause. Why should taxpayers coast to coast be assisting them with their plans?

The Green Party is relatively new on the scene. Should they receive a taxpayer hand out? No. You build a party by offering a platform and leadership that is attractive to a large number of people. You have to be more than a one issue party and attract a broad spectrum of people. There is nothing wrong with starting small, perhaps in one province and gradually expanding your reach as you build your political base. You don’t have to be an instant national party; the Bloc is proof of that.

For all those who see ending the taxpayer subsidy as the death of democracy in Canada, reduce the subsidy by a specific amount each year over a five year period. I find it hard to believe that a modern political party with all the fundraising tools available to it, couldn’t raise and extra 20% each year to replace the loss of the taxpayer subsidy. In the mean time they stand on the corner, cap in hand waiting for the taxpayer to give them a handout.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

Best WesternKAV Productions


  1. You will remember that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives decided, last election, to eliminate this “offering” to all political parties. A coalition was immediately formed by the Liberals, NDP and BLOC Quebecois to vote against this change. Read it and weep now!

  2. The amount handed over to the Bloq is a rather high percentage of the all of their income, just to make you feel better.

  3. Author

    I think critiques of this law should remember why it was created. It was to prevent rampant “buying” of political clout. I’m not saying that it still doesn’t happen, but there are now more rules in place to prevent it.

  4. I agree Jamie. Seeing as we are stuck with this “party politics” system, there has to be a way to even the playing field so that parties that don’t have filthy rich backers remain in the game.

  5. Keith, you seem to have omitted the most important point in this post, and that is the reason why we have this “tax handout.”

    A few years ago, big corporations and big unions were allowed to contribute directly to the political parties of their choice (i.e. the party that would do their bidding, if elected).

    In the recent American mid-term elections, we have seen what happens when big business (especially BIG OIL) are allowed to fund their parties. We end up with Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.
    To prevent this subversion of democracy in Canada, the political parties agreed to ban business and labour from funding the parties, and instead each registered party would, subject to certain conditions, receive a fixed amount each year for each vote they had received in the previous general election.

    It was a fair and democratic solution, agreed to by all the parties concerned, including the Reform Party.

    Soon after the 2008 election, Harper tried to remove this funding, which would have effectively emasculated the opposition. It was the closest he could get, under the current constitution, to banning the opposition. No doubt Harper borrowed the idea of banning the opposition from other extreme right or left governments in history.

    Hitler burned down the Reichstag to provide an excuse to ban (initially) the communist party, which he claimed was threatening Germany’s existence. Harper burned down the Parliament Buildings (sorry, prorogued the House) because the Bloc, he claimed, was threatening Canada’s existence.

    What will Harper and the Politburo (sorry, PMO), who were elected by a minority of the Canadian electorate, come up with now to try to cling to power? Remember, the Nazis were always a minority party till they seized power in 1933, and the Communist Party has always been a minority party.

    One of the reasons I’ve always read and respected your opinions about what’s going on in Ottawa is because you’ve always been reasonably fair and accurate. What happened with today’s post? Please, tell me it was an aberration.

  6. Sorry, forgot to mention this is my previous comment. $6.9m is an awful lot to spend on the preservation of Canadian democracy, especially with the massive deficit Harper is running. The opposition parties get something like $4.3m, because I’m sure the Con party returns their share of the proceeds to the government.

    Think of what we could spend that $4.3m on – for example, we could run the Politburo (sorry, Prime Minister’s Office, I just can’t seem to get it straight), for about 5 months. (Annual budget for the PMO, according to the Globe and Mail, is $9.89m).

    Or just consider the infrastructure we could get for Toronto. The $4.3m we spend to try to maintain democratic choice in this country could go to something really permanent and worthwhile, a lasting legacy for future generations. How about two artificial lakes?

    On a more local level, imagine if we gave $4.3m to Guy Lauzon to fund additional mail campaigns. This would provide much needed jobs to the pulp and paper industry, (not only clear cutting useless local forests, but we might even get Domtar back), to the post office, who would have to expand to accommodate the extra load, to the WSIB, who would have to administer all the claims for back injuries to postal workers who have to carry his rot door to door, to Detroit, to build the vehicles needed to transport it all, and to the recycling industry, who would finally make insulation.

    So, think about it. The price of democracy is $4.3m. I’m sure Guy could cover that with his office expense MasterCard.

    And the value of preserving democracy? PRICELESS

  7. You miss the fact that the Bloc raises over 90% of its money from this source – you and me – now I don’t know about you, but I’m not in favour of separation and don’t want my money supporting it – Perhaps if Richard Komorowski would stop for a moment at looking at the world from an anti Harper aspect he might see his words and actions are actually supporting separatism! Incidentially the Tea Party is a movement, funded entirely by the people looking for change –

  8. Speaking of the BLOC, why is it that in this country, we have a political party that care only for their own province, and literally have 0 clout anywhere outside of their province? I would have more respect for the BLOC if they ACTUALLY RAN FEDERALLY! But here we have realistically at best a provincial party, but with federal powers, calling so many shots that have tremendous effect on the rest of the country.. I think we should do away with the BLOC.. Until a party is actually ready to run FEDERALLY, they should NOT BE A FEDERAL PARTY!

  9. Richard Komorowski, I was one ot the tens of thousands who wrote the G G to support Mr Harper in support of prorogue, WE voted before that for a party, not 3, to run things.

    Why do so many on here not bash Mr. McGuinty with such distaste, he is robbing us more?

  10. Whatever the massive deficit that Stephen Harper is running, please remember that it was done with the Liberals, NDP and BLOC knowledge and participation.

  11. A MINORITY of voters chose the Conservatives to run a MINORITY government which requires the co-operation of at least one of the other opposition parties. Proroguing is a reality in Canadian government but should not be used to hide incompetent or even criminal behaviour and should not be used flagrantly to gain time to raise the governments status in the opinion polls.

    It is unfortunate that there does not seem to be a viable alternative to the Conservatives right now but that is why there is a MINORITY government. Now if the MINORITY

  12. (I think my comment was prorogued)

    …..government would stop playing partisan politics and govern Canada with the good of all Canadians in mind then, for better or worse, maybe there would be a majority government in power.

  13. Bob Rae was quiet during that prorogue because he did it himself, Trudeau and Cretien were no bit players with the power either during their time.

    It is no small task to get a majority with 5 plus parties running and catering to enclaves but suggesting criminal behaviour, show me the proof. Good proof that has been proven…..

  14. Having it both ways, Stan? So it’s okay for Harper to run with Liberal+Bloc+NDP alliance when it suits him; and at the same time okay for him to nix (prorogue) Liberal+Bloc+NDP alliance when he’s in deep do-do. That’s hypocrisy, two-timing, weaseling, call it what you will. But not leadership, and not democratic.

  15. So Eric, are you saying the proof is the proof of the proof…….

    You’re secretly a love child of Jean Chrétien aren’t you.

  16. Too bad that the Official Opposition party is still bogged down by the infighting that’s been going on since Chretien was PM. It goes on in every party, but in the federal Liberal Party, it has become a cancer. One of my wishes for 2011 was a properly functioning opposition. Not gonna happen soon.

  17. Agreed Furtz!

Leave a Reply