According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the Conservatives have deputized "democratic reform" minister Steven Fletcher to lead a new charge to end the per-vote subsidy for political parties.
As the article rightly points-out, such a move would no longer mark the financial death-knell of the Liberal Party of Canada. Under the leadership of Alf Apps and Rocco Rossi the party's fundraising machine has been reinvigorated, and the subsidy is no longer the lifeline it once was for the party.
Still, I'm not necessarily ready to support its elimination. When the Liberal government of Jean Chretien brought-in the subsidy, it was to counter the elimination of corporate and union donations, which cut-off a major source of funding to political parties. The Conservatives tightened the taps even further, by sharply limiting personal donations from around $5400 to today's cap, which IIRC is around $1100.
I remember when Stephen Harper argued money was speech and shouldn't be constrained, but I won't digress. I'll just say that I may me amenable to re-visiting the per-vote subsidy were such a move coupled with a significant increase in the personal donation limit. I think that would be a fair compromise.
But what led me to blog on this issue though was this graph from the Free Press article:
As well, the Conservatives cutting off the vote tax would not cripple the Liberals finances but would hamper the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, both of which earn more from the vote tax than from donations.That's a very good point. Strategically, it's in the best interests of the Conservatives to ensure a strong NDP. That's Flanagan 101. A strong NDP pulls votes from the Liberals (not saying the Liberals own those votes or anything, just that they draw from the same well) which creates splits that help elect Conservatives. Battleground Ontario is a good example of this. A number of recent Ontario polls have pointed to Conservative losses in the 905, driven in part by Liberal strength and coresponding NDP weakness. That's a bad picture for the CPC.
And that would be bad news for the Conservatives, whose victories are in part due to the splitting of votes on the centre-left of the political spectrum.
So while going after the per-vote subsidy might have made good strategic sense for the CPC when the LPC was a fiscal basketcase, today you could argue it would actually be strategically counter-productive for them.
Of course, there is the chance this is about what's right for the CPC, and not strategic positioning and sticking it to their opponents.
Hey, there's a first time for everything. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers