OTTAWA - Critics of Canada’s political financing system are calling the tilting of the playing field towards political parties crazy.
An analysis of taxpayer subsidies to political parties by QMI Agency found that tens of millions of dollars are handed over to political parties each year on top of the $27 million they get through their per-vote subsidy.
“One of the crazy aspects of it is they give themselves a larger tax deduction than charities get,” said Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Gaudet said charities such as hospitals would be considered more important than political parties by most Canadians even if the tax law favours politics over health.
The low-tax crusader is also part of an ongoing campaign to get rid of the $1.95 per vote per year subsidy that each political party gets.
“Political parties should exist solely on their ability to get donations from their supporters,” said Gaudet.
Two years ago the threat of opposition parties losing their per-vote subsidy lead to a revolt and the threat of a coalition. The Harper government backed down over accusations they were simply out to get their political rivals.
Based on an analysis of several years of fundraising numbers, removing the per-vote subsidy would have a crippling effect on the Bloc Quebecois.
A poll taken in late 2008 showed 61% of Canadians agreed with removing the subsidies.
Not everyone agrees though.
NDP Leader Jack Layton has called the Harper government’s threat of removing the per-vote subsidy an “attack on democracy.” Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has said the opposition parties won’t let the Harper government take away the subsidies.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made clear that he will raise this issue with voters at the next election.
Tom Flanagan, a former advisor to Harper – although the two no longer speak -- wrote a paper for the University of Calgary earlier this year arguing that if the subsidies are taken away, then donation limits should be lifted.
Currently, no individual can donate more than $1,100. Flanagan calls for that limit to be raised to $5,000.