Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Defending the undefendable

Here's a letter to the editor I sent to the Toronto Star in response to a recent James Travers column which defended public subsidies for political parties.

Dear Sir/Madam:

James Travers has conjured up a stunningly bizarre argument to defend taxpayer subsidies for politicians. (“Harper risks national unity in bid to end political subsidies” January 29)

He maintains the millions of tax dollars poured into the wallets of the Bloc Quebecois actually safeguards national unity.

Or as he puts it, “There is no bigger bargain than channeling rogue and destructive forces into legitimate and constructive political practices.”

In other words, unless Canadians pay off Gilles Duceppe and his crew, the Quebec population might rise up in violent rebellion.

Wow and people accuse the Conservative Party of fear-mongering.

Traver’s argument is, of course, absurd.

If the Bloc is cut off from the public dole it can always ask for voluntary donations to make up the shortfall.

And that’s as it should be.

After all, when you force Canadians to subsidize a party they don’t support it infringes on their freedom of expression.

That's why it’s time to end welfare for politicians.


Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

As it should be!
Swim or sink.

E Mac

Anonymous said...

Your argument doesn't make sense:

"After all, when you force Canadians to subsidize a party they don’t support it infringes on their freedom of expression."

... isn't the reason they get money because Canadians voted for them (i.e. supported them)? If Canadians didn't vote for them, they wouldn't get the support $.

Anonymous said...

That money comes from people who didn't vote too. Voting should be an entirely separate act from donating.

Doug said...

Sure, Travers' argument is bunk. But I'm not sure yours is much better.

Why exactly should voting not be correlated with financial support for political parties? Money to run political parties - that get competing messages to Canadians in elections - needs to come from somewhere. We used to have it come from big corporations that "donated" to gain influence. That didn't seem a good idea to parliament and thus now we fund political parties mainly through tax dollars. Even limiting donations to $1000 per candidate (so the wealthy can spend tens of thousands funding multiple candidates) still gives a lot more time and influence to the wealthy (any politician needs fundraisers and one person that's going to contribute $1000 to a dozen campaigns is financially the same as getting 1200 people to donate $10 - no wonder the wealthy get listened to).

Just like you might be opposed to buckle-up campaigns for seatbelts you might be opposed to spending by a particular political party. Well, vote that way then.

Public funding is designed to alter the structure of the system to make it more responsive to people and more in line with democratic ideals. Sure, we could tinker by having a rule that says the award is multiplied by the percentage of ridings your party ran in (might be an OK idea) or by having a separate support choice (either on the ballot or on ones' income tax return) but the idea seems sound.

If you going to attack it, please suggest minor alterations, an alternative funding source that doesn't allow money to buy access, or some reason why allowing money to buy access to legislators isn't a bad thing for democracy.