Posted by Nick Fillmore of Catch 22
Stephen Harper has a scheme that he hopes will cripple the ability of other political parties, particularly the Liberal Party, to mount strong campaigns against his radically right-wing Conservative Party in future elections.
Harper says he will campaign in the next election to eliminate direct public financing for political parties. If successful, Harper would scuttle an important democratic program that provides parties with $2 for every vote they receive in an election.
Elimination of direct public financing would push the Canadian electoral system deeper back into the Dark Ages. It would mark the end of the most democratic mechanism used to fund political parties.
Apparently claiming to oppose the direct public financing mechanism as a matter of principle, Harper elaborated on his views in an interview with Postmedia News.
“He said there are already “considerable incentives” for parties, in which people who donate to them can get tax receipts. There are also rebates for the parties for campaign expenses. The Tories do not propose to end these.”
For instance, Harper does not oppose the political tax credit system, which allows an individual to give a party up to $400. Taxpayers pick up three-quarters of the amount donated. Perhaps the reason Harper likes the tax credit system is because it tends to be taken advantage more easily by higher-income Canadians – the same people who support the Conservatives’ right-wing policies.
The distinction Harper makes between “direct” and “indirect” public financing of parties is intended to be misleading because he suggests one form – the direct and open one – is bad while the other – the covert one—is somehow good.
An end to direct public financing would give the Harperites a big advantage come election time because their right-wing policies and tax breaks for individuals and corporations greatly appeal to well-off and super-rich Canadians. The wealthy usually fund and vote for the party that serves their self-interests
The proof is in the numbers: During the first half of 2010, the Conservatives raised more than $8.2-million from individual donations. During the same six months, the Liberals raised only $3-million and the NDP $1.6-million.
Democratic-minded Canadians and public interest organizations fought for years to pressure Parliament to implement a system of public financing of political parties and, at the same time, reduce the contribution levels of corporations and unions.
Harper is once again proving that he runs what is almost certainly the most right-wing government of all developed western countries. While many other countries have democratized their electoral systems with the adoption of some form of proportional representation voting, Harper wants to move Canada backwards.
Opposition parties earlier forced Harper to back down when he threatened to take away some of their financial support, and there’s now speculation that Ignatieff and Layton might be prepared to go to the polls to protect their most reliable source of funding.
Gerry Nicholls, is a political consultant and a former vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition and a former colleague of Harper’s, writing in The Globe and Mail warns Ignatieff of what is really on Harper’s mind.
“To be blunt, Mr. Harper’s ultimate strategic goal really isn’t to win a majority government – it’s to eradicate the Liberal Party as a viable political force”, writes Nicholls.
“Mr. Harper also has personal reasons for wanting to decimate the Liberals. In his view, the Liberals have exhibited an anti-Alberta bias since the days of Pierre Trudeau, a bias that resulted, among other things, in the disastrous national energy program. For this, Mr. Harper holds a grudge, and he wants payback.”