Sunday, January 09, 2011

Free speech and political contributions

The public subsidy federal political parties receive is suddenly a hot topic among conservative pundits and writers.

In the space of just a few weeks Lorne Gunter, Ezra Levant and Stephen Taylor have all come out with blogs or columns denouncing the practice of using taxpayer dollars to finance politicians.

Why the sudden interest in this issue?

Could it be the Conservatives, who have long opposed public subsidies, are spinning their friends in the media?  And if that's the case does it mean the Tories are seeking to win over public opinion because they plan to address this controversial issue in their next budget?

And that leads to further questions. After all, the last time the Conservatives targeted these subsidies it nearly triggered a constitutional crisis, not to mention an unholy alliance between the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc.

Could it be Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping the subsidy issue will force an election this spring?

OK before I go sink too deep into this sort of speculation, let's get back to the issue of political subsidies.

 I fully concur with Gunter, Levant and Taylor that such subsidies  are wrong, undemocratic and basically amount to welfare for politicians.

They should be scrapped and I hope the Tories will do so.

However, if the subsidies are scrapped, Prime Minister Harper should also scrap campaign finance limits, which make it illegal for individuals to contribute more than $1,000 per year to a political party or candidate.

It's a question of free speech.

Just as it's wrong to force a Canadian to subsidize a political party, it's equally wrong to deny a Canadian the right to use his or her own money to financially support a political party.

And if the subsidies are removed, political parties will need to rely all the more on the voluntary support of Canadians.


Anonymous said...

"It's a question of free speech", but certainly not the most egregious violation of free speech. You'll make more progress tackling issues like American First Amendment Zones then focusing on the amount of money people can give away.

Anonymous said...

So we can have politicians that are bought and paid for by big business, right Gerry?

What should be done, is that all parties get no financing except a stipend for every vote they get. That would be democratic.

peter radzio said...

They're not already funded by big business?

Anonymous said...

@peter radzio: they are already funded/influenced by big business lobbies, but Cherniak would rather delude himself into believing that democracy is better than freedom.

Anonymous said...

Anon seems to have a reading comprehension problem...

A conservative commenter wrote this:
R. G. Harvie said...
This Conservative's $.02?

The need for politicians to secure funding privately has contributed to the illness of the politics of back-scratching.. It really amounts to legal graft where you organize fund raisers and then the degree to which you have been a "good soldier" impacts directly on:

a) your ability to have a "private" conversation with government; and

b) your ability to secure government goodies like political appointments.

This is what caused me to leave the PC party of Alberta.. And by encouraging more, not less of this, the Cons are mistake.

Seems that some would like to encourage this...

Anonymous said...

Politics is all about back scratching. Deal with it-or bette ryet limit politics by limiting government.