Public Financing of Political Parties in Canada - Cut the Subsidy: Tom Flanagan

By Greg Farries on Aug 17, 2009

Tom Flanagan in today’s Globe and Mail argues for the end of the “per-vote” subsidy given to federal political parties in Canada.

Third, Canada could consider a taxpayer check-off system of the type found in the United States at the federal level and in 41 states. The basic idea is that taxpayers, when filing annual returns, can tick a box indicating a political contribution. The systems vary in the limits they set and in whether taxpayers give from their own returns or assign the destination for money from a government fund.

One of the unintended (or perhaps intended) consequences of this type of campaign finance reform would be to severely undercut the revenues to regional parties, particularly the separatist party, Bloc Quebecois. More than any other party in the Canadian House of Commons, the Bloc Quebecois relies the heaviest on public financing - a whopping 86 per cent of the Bloc’s revenues comes from the federal subsidy.

Chantal Hébert, at the Toronto Star, argues otherwise:

The per-vote subsidy makes each vote relevant, even in ridings where one’s party of choice has no shot of winning. It helps emerging parties such as the Greens break into a system that is otherwise stacked against them.

The regimen also levels the playing field between parties whose policies may be more attractive to affluent Canadians and parties whose primary appeal is to voters who don’t have the means to back their support with donations.

The issue of public financing of political parties isn’t going away anytime soon. To brush up on the specifics of public financing of political parties in Canada, make sure to read our newest feature, Federal Campaign Finance Laws in Canada

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