Walking the high road on subsidies

Walking the high road on subsidies Open letter to Ryan Leef, Yukon Member of Parliament: Congratulations on your decision to sit with the opposition in the House of Commons so you can share ideas. This return to civility will be greatly appreciated by

Open letter to Ryan Leef, Yukon Member of Parliament:

Congratulations on your decision to sit with the opposition in the House of Commons so you can share ideas.

This return to civility will be greatly appreciated by Canadians weary of the bickering of the last six years.

I know I promised to write you once a month, and this letter is early. However, the budget being presented on June 6 phases out the per-vote subsidy for political parties. I wish to discuss this matter.

The per-vote subsidy came into place in 2003 to replace funding from corporations, unions and other associations that were reduced to $1,000 donations and, in 2006, banned entirely. This step was taken to reinforce representational democracy.

On the surface, it seems reasonable to cut this subsidy.

Times are hard for taxpayers, and the government shouldn’t be wasting our dime on frivolous matters. However, I believe $27 million is a small price to pay for a stronger democracy.

Sara MacIntyre, press secretary to Stephen Harper, was mistaken when she stated to the Hill Times, “Taxpayers should not be forced to fund political parties that they do not even support.” Under the subsidy, each vote puts $2 into the coffers of the selected party.

In the election, the Conservative party received 39.6 per cent of the vote but won 54 per cent of the ridings. The per-vote subsidy helps give the 60.4 per cent of Canadians a voice. It encourages people to vote, knowing that at least their chosen party gets some benefit from their vote. Other stable democracies, such as Germany and Sweden, have similar practices.

Perhaps we can examine other practices that misspend public money.

In 2010, the Conservatives voted against a motion to ban 10 percenters. The 10 percenters cost Canadians more than $20 million from 2008 to 2010, of which the Conservatives were responsible for at least $13.1 million. (To put this in perspective, you might be interested to know that of the top 100 offenders in 2008/2009, 10 were NDP, four were Bloc, three were Liberals and 83 were Conservatives. This is significant when you consider that the Tories held only 42 per cent of the ridings.)

After the 10 percenters were banned, Conservative MPs, most notably Candice Hoeppner, sent out partisan letters using their publicly financed franking privileges.

The taxpayer-funded Action Plan logo was used on 10 percenters and other Conservative ads. The last round of stimulus package ads between January and March 2011 cost the public $26 million, although it wasn’t clear new applications were still being accepted. Finally, I have no idea how much it cost to change “Canadian government” to “Harper government” on government communications.

Do acts of partisan opportunism truly represent core conservative values?

With the banning of the per-vote subsidy, the only obvious winner is the Conservative party which is in a position to offload advertising costs onto Canadians.

I worry that we could very easily become a pretend democracy, such as Russia and Alberta.

Is there some as yet unnamed Conservative plan to replace the per-vote subsidy that will reinforce Canadian democracy?

As my representative, I encourage you to argue in favour of the per-vote subsidy.

Furthermore, you might propose a private members bill to force all political parties to return the money misspent on 10 percenters between 2008 and 2010 to the public purse.

It would demonstrate a commitment to fiscal prudence as well as honourable intent.

Good luck with your first term in office. May your time in Ottawa be constructive and may you always walk on the high road.

Linda Leon

Whitehorse