They are all campaigning on the taxpayer’s dime

THUNDER BAY – NDP MP Bruce Hyer is calling into question the costs of Senators possibly using their travel budget funds for partisan political campaigning. “But now, in the ultimate insult to democracy, we have appointed Senators being flown into our region to tell us who to vote for. Are their travel and campaign expenses being billed to taxpayers?” Hyer demanded. “Are they campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime?”

Perhaps the reality is that almost all of the political parties are campaigning on the taxpayer’s dime. The quarterly payments from the taxpayer’s pockets to political parties comes from the $1.75 per vote that the parties gather in. Quarterly the NDP rakes in $1,260,002. The Liberal grab is $1,819,999, and the Conservatives rake in $2,609,418. Even the Green Party snags $469,686.

That quarterly taxpayer subsidy could certainly go to better purposes than funding political parties.

It doesn’t stop there however. Political parties are also getting a very generous tax credits that people garner from political party donations. If you donate $100 to a political party, you get a tax receipt for $80.00 – compare that to what you get if you donate to a charity and you will see that the politicians are working very hard to protect themselves too.

Now, none of that is MP Bruce Hyer’s direct fault. However, a few years ago when the Conservative Government moved to take the $1.75 vote subsidy away from the political parties, it was NDP leader Jack Layton who worked to bring down the government and have a coalition government formed to replace them.

Perhaps if the goal were leveling the playing field, political parties would be completely self funding. Take away the taxpayer subsidies period. Put strict limits on individual contributions, and eliminate corporate and union contributions completely.

That solution would likely not be supported by many in the political mix.

The Conservatives have, over the past ten years or so built up a powerful fundraising machine, they collect more money than any other party. One might wonder how that would function without the tax credits for donations, but if people honestly do believe in the political product that the parties are selling, then it is likely they will donate.

If no one is “buying” by donating then it would be up to the political party leaders, and members to change their policies to ones that people would be more willing to support.

Hyer’s critical commentary on a Senator arriving in Thunder Bay would be more meaningful if the NDP were not so heavily addicted to their own political subsidies. Bluntly put, all the parties are, and our democracy is weaker for it.

James Murray