There's been much written about how the proposed $1000/year individual political donation limit in the Conservative's Orwellianly-named Accountability Act may scuttle the Liberal leadership convention, and that's true. But I think our self-interest is clouding a more important question here: why does Harper want to limit donations by private Canadian citizens to $1000 in the first place?
I was all for Jean Chretien's campaign finance reforms, which sharply curtailed corporate donations, even though it put the Liberal Party into a financial hole it still hasn't been able to dig itself out of. And I agreed because of concern the influence corporate and union donations can have on the political process. It makes sense to limit that and I agreed, even if some did call it "dumber than a bag of hammers." And you can't call it a partisan-motivated change, because it screwed the corporate donation-reliant Liberals and favoured the Cons and NDP, who get more individual donations.
So, what then, prey tell, is Mr. Harper's rationale for limiting the amount private Canadian citizens can donate to a political party to $1000? Why was $5400 too high? I haven't heard him articulate that. Does he think private citizens are having too much influence on the political process?
His buddy/potential successor in New Brunswick, Conservative Premier Bernard Lord, has proposed legislation that would limit individual donations in his province to $3000? Why is $3000 OK for New Brunswick, but more than $1000 is unacceptable federally?
I'm sure it's only a coincidence that the Conservatives (and the NDP, who support the measure) get more smaller donations while the Liberals get less larger ones, so it's primarily the Liberals that will take the hit here. I'm sure he has some higher morality here than just trying to pass laws to strangle his political opposition.
It wasn't that long ago that Harper was the head of the National Citizens Coalition and the NCC was suing the federal government, arguing restricting third party advertising during election campaigns was unconstitutional. The government didn't want well-funded lobby groups swaying election campaigns with unlimited ad spending, but the NCC argued money was speech and shouldn't be curtailed.
So, tell me Mr. Harper, if money is indeed speech why do you feel average citizens should be silenced but well-heeled special interests and lobby groups should be given a bullhorn?
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