Saturday, November 29, 2008

I hear Stornaway is a nicer house anyway

News this afternoon that the Conservatives are backing-down on that whole party financing thing. Well, actually, they started backing down on it on Friday when they reversed themselves and said it won't be a confidence vote and will be separate from the fiscal update. Of course, they said then it was never going to be a confidence vote, despite Jim Flaherty saying the opposite hours earlier. Now, I wonder if they'll pretend they never even proposed axing the subsidy in the first place. These guys are positively Orwellian some much of the time.

After 24 hours of peering into a yawning political abyss, the Harper government stepped back from the brink Saturday, dropping a plan to kill public subsidies for political parties.

“When it comes to the funding and subsidies that political parties get, we just don't think it's worth getting into an election on that issue,'' Transport Minister John Baird said in an interview. “We won't be proceeding.''

Actually Jim, you mean you don't think it's worth seeing the Conservatives lose power to a Liberal/NDP coalition government over. Which is fine, because the reason you're going to lose power has nothing to do with party financing. It has to do with the total lack of stimulus for the Canadian economy, or help for Canadian families and businesses struggling in this economic climate.

But back to the political party financing stuff. Jim, Stephen, you're fooling no one. Of course you're backing down on this now. You screwed up. You overplayed your hand. By adding this measure into an economic update that also lacked stimulus and took away the right to strike from public sector unions, you gave the opposition more principled reasons to stand against you. Yeah, we don't want these changes to financing. But toppling the government on such an issue of pure self-interest would be disastrous.

Which is why you actually help the opposition by removing this issue form the table. Because we still stand united against you for the principled reasons, such as the stimulus, and you can't say it's about the financing because you've removed that from the table.

But we also know you're attempting to spring a little trap on us here. Because we know full well you'll bring this issue back at a future date, as a stand-alone issue, when there's no political cover for the opposition parties. This is merely a tactical retreat.

No doubt your next step will be to walk back the no-strike stuff, and to offer some comprise on stimulus. Combined with a well-organized and well-funded (in part with public funding ironically) public relations blitz over the next week, you hope this will be enough to force the opposition to back down, for you to hold onto government, and to live to fight, and bring this back, another day.

If there is a compromise reached over the next week (which must include real stimulus now and the removal of the no-strike provisions), I think the opposition parties should and must secure a finalization of the political financing question. Now is the time to settle this. Personally, I'd be fine with ending public financing if it comes with a much higher limit on individual donations (say, $10,000) and possibly limited corporate and union donations. That would be fair to all, and if the Conservatives aren't lying (ha) when they say it's about taxpayer restraint and not politics, they should be fine with that. After all, it was Stephen Harper as head of the NCC who once said limiting spending is limiting free speech.

Frankly, though, I think the train has left the station. The Harper Conservatives have shown themselves unfit to govern by demonstrating a total ignorance of the challenges facing the Canadian economy, an unwillingness to act, and by attempting to use an economic crisis as cover to punish his political enemies.

With the fracturing of the Canadian political landscape, the era of majority governments is over for the foreseeable future. Somehow, the Conservatives didn't get the message. They got a minority of the seats, not a mandate. Canadians wanted Harper to work with the other parties. Instead, he decided to play political games.

We're not used to coalitions here, but in Europe and elsewhere in the world they are the norm, and they can work. In a minority era they can, and perhaps should, become the new norm. Stephen had his chance and he blew it. Canadians expect some maturity and some cooperation from their parliamentary representatives.

I think it's time to see what a progressive coalition can do for Canada. Led by Prime Minister Stephane Dion.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Mark Richard Francis said...

For those willing to end the per-vote subsidy, would they also support ending the very ample tax credit for political donations?

Clearly, Harper isn't. He was going to leave that in one intact, as the Conservative Party benefits the most from it right now.

Myself, I can't favour it. The per-vote funding simply makes sense as it helps remove us from donors buying political power.

If people think the amount granted it too much, reduce it.

Why did Harper simply promise to reduce it, and to reduce the donation tax refund as well?

Oh, of course. his party wouldn't benefit the most compared to the other parties then.

McLea said...

Which is fine, because the reason you're going to lose power has nothing to do with party financing. It has to do with the total lack of stimulus for the Canadian economy, or help for Canadian families and businesses struggling in this economic climate.

Ha, whatever helps you sleep at night Jedras.

Thanks for the laugh.

Jeff said...

Just keep swallowing those Conservative talking-points whole, mclea. I trust you've been calling all the radio call-in shows with your CPC-fed talking points like a good little robot? If you're having trouble sleeping, just remember, it's all part of Steve's master plan. It's all part of Steve's master plan. It's all part of Steve's...

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Hear Hear!

Anonymous said...

How would a $10,000 donation limit be fair for all? Such a policy would be substantially unfair to the vast majority of Canadian who are not in a position to make a $10,000 political donation. Personally, I would favour a system that is completely financed by the public, because that would put all people on the same footing in terms of their ability to financially support a party.

McLea said...

What conservative talking points are you talking about?

All I'm saying is that there's absolutely no way in hell that this has "nothing to do with party financing."

That fact that you even said this just goes to show how little respect you have for the readers of your blog. Do you honestly think we're that stupid? If we were sitting in a restaurant together, would you be able to look me in the eyes and say this to my face? Surely you can differentiate between calculated spin, and brazen lies.

Or maybe you can't.

Demosthenes said...

To blunt, I think the Liberals (and NDP, and Bloc) have far more to gain from the turmoil in Conservative ranks that their fall would engender than anything the Conservatives could propose.

And, personally, I think the financing system should stay as-is. It's elegant, simple, and ensures that parties have as much to gain from appealing to the broad mass of voters as big donation bundlers. It's not terribly expensive--30 million is a tiny part of the budget--and helps mitigate the worst parts of a FPTP Westminster system with rigid party discipline.

It's good policy, full stop.

Skinny Dipper said...

The Ottawa International Youth Hostel--the former gaol/jail--would make a nice home away from home for Harper. Msybe Harper will try to prorogue Parliament until next May when Ottawa U opens its summer residences.

Jeff said...

What conservative talking points are you talking about?

This one: "No – do you know what set this off. When Flaherty said he was going to take taxpayer-funded subsidies away from the opposition. Now there is a reason to try and overturn an election– because the Conservatives the audacity to say “Hey, it’s a recession, maybe you should take your nose out of the trough.”

It's kind of out of date though no, since the Conservatives have backed down on the financing cuts and the opposition is still pledging to bring them down?

Devin, I don't think Canadians would support a fully publicly-funded system. Demosthenes, I'm fine with keeping the current system with some tweeks, I'm just looking for compromises for those that aren't. My only beef with the current system is I think the $1000 limit on personal donations is too low. Obviously there needs to be a cap, but $1k is too much of a limit on an individual's right to support the party of their choice.