Crawl Across the Ocean

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My 183 Cents

Andrwe Coyne has an interesting post up on how to improve the federal election process.

A lot of what he says I agree with, including that the debate rules should be formalized as part of the election laws, that the electoral system needs changing and that a higher tone (less mud) would be appreciated.

The one major point I disagree with is his opposition to the campaign finance rule which allocates $1.83 of funding annually to political parties for each vote they received in the last election.

Says Coyne,
"If the principle is that elections should be a matter between the parties and the voters, and therefore that parties should have to appeal to the choices of free individuals, for funds as well as votes, this seems a contradiction, to say the least."


I guess I don't really see the contradiction, so maybe I am missing Coyne's point here. But what I do know, is that I like to see our MP's focus on lawmaking and on serving all their constituents equally - not spending most of their time fundraising and currying favour with people who can help them with their fundraising. I don't want to see the development of single (or multi) issue political action committees which wield significant unaccountable influence due to their ability to round up the numerous individual donations which are needed to raise money when institutional and large individual donations are banned but no public money is provided to fill the gap.

That is all.

10 Comments:

  • "But what I do know, is that I like to see our MP's focus on lawmaking and on serving all their constituents equally - not spending most of their time fundraising and currying favour with people who can help them with their fundraising."

    If they can't accept donations from corporations, or from individuals in excess of $1K - who are they going to be busy currying favour with?

    "I don't want to see the development of single (or multi) issue political action committees..."

    Neither do I - so ban PACs. Disallow any donation of more than $1,000, even if it is supposed to be an aggregation of individual contributions.

    "...when institutional and large individual donations are banned but no public money is provided to fill the gap."

    Maybe, with less money available to them, politicians (and Parties) will spend more time developing and presenting policy - which can be done fairly cheaply at Rotary luncheons, talk-shows, flyers, etc - and less time buying expensive television time to promote themselves on a manipulative and emotional basis. Maybe less money in the whole political process is a good thing, in and of itself. I think it is at least worth a try.

    By Blogger deaner, at 10:45 AM  

  • Perhaps an example would clarify.

    Imagine a religious group with 5,000 members who take direction on who to contribute money to from their spiritual leaders.

    5,000 x $1,000 = $5,000,000.

    In a setting where parties receive public funds based on votes received, $5 million is still a large sum of money.

    In a situation where the *only* source of funds is individual donations and parties not receiving this kind of support are trying to develop and present policy while their opponents are running attack ads day and night, $5 million is enormous and will drive the other parties to devote enough time to fundraising to counteract their disadvantage.

    This has all played out in the U.S. already.

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:00 AM  

  • Declan - that may be a problem; why accept any donations then, since $5M could be potentially distorting? The Tories got ~5.3M votes, which entitles them to about $9.5M per year; the Liberals will get ~$8.5M. If we want to make your example really scary - what if the religious (or other affiliation) group had 10,000 members? What about 20,000, or.... So far, this has not been a problem - or if it has been, those who think so have been pretty quiet about it.

    On the other hand, if 5,000 people feel strongly enough about an issue (or issues) to make the maximum donation, I am not sure that they shouldn't be allowed to do so, and shouldn't be able to make their voice heard. Presumably someone from the party that is busy pandering to the 5,000 person congregation (or the ten 500-person congregations) will actually have to make a speech, or issue a statement to gain their support; that becomes part of the public record, and allows the rest of us to make a determination of their acceptability for office.

    As a last resort, make party donation compulsory: let every Income Tax form include a political donantion check-off for a small amount - say $10, or even $1. Tax payers (actually, 'tax filers' so "the poor" would still have their voice) would have the choice of directing it to any federally-registered party, or to "none of the above" in which case it would go to a repayment of federal debt or some such worthy cause. The catch is that no other donations or sources of funding would be allowed. Period - no $1,000/plate dinners, no raffles, no donations, nothing. Even with a lower limit of $1/tax filer we are talking about more money than the parties get now - except for voters who quite reasonably don't want to contribute to a bunch of political hacks. It would also provide an early-warning if a party saw its contribution base drop between elections

    By Blogger deaner, at 3:15 PM  

  • Not sure I get what you're saying.

    I agree that people should be able to make their voice heard if they feel strongly about something. That is why I don't support an outright ban on individual donations.

    At the same time, I think it is detrimental if these are the *only* possible source of donations (a situation which has never occurred here in Canada, so the past isn't much of a guide) which is why I support the public funding of parties.

    Also, I don't know why we would use the tax system to collect mandatory donations when using the electoral system is so much more efficicent.

    By Blogger Declan, at 7:21 PM  

  • "Also, I don't know why we would use the tax system to collect mandatory donations when using the electoral system is so much more efficicent."

    Because it includes a "none of the above" option. I don't see that defending myself by selecting the least bad government should entitle the bastards to any of my money - which they will use to try brainwash me and my fellow citizens. Even more, I don't see that someone else's selection of what I see as an actively bad government should entitle those bastards to any of my money either, but that's where it will come from, since the average (registered) voter pays less in taxes than the average taxpayer, while I pay more.

    We should have an avenue for saying "this is the government that I will tolerate, but I will not aid them in exercising and extending their dominion over me and my fellow citizens." As it is now, if I want to deny funding to one or another claque of politicoes, my only choice is to accept other people's determination of an acceptable government: that is intolerable. Voting should not carry the unavoidable price tag of paying to be manipulated and lied to in next year's round of advertising.

    I don't see that efficiency is a sufficient criteria, Declan; surely it would be more efficient to do away with all this election nonsense, and just install me as Philosopher-King and be done with it.

    By Blogger deaner, at 9:14 AM  

  • OK, I see what you're getting at, and it occurs to me that that was probably the contradiction that Coyne was referring to as well.

    It's fair point. If enough people shared your concern than we could either modify the ballot or use the tax system to make the system more flexible.

    But if the number of people with this concern is small enough, then I think it is not worth the added effort and complication.

    Speaking for myself, I have no problem with the party I vote for receiving funding and it is easy enough for me to incorporate that reality into my decision of who to vote for.

    By Blogger Declan, at 10:10 AM  

  • "But if the number of people with this concern is small enough, then..."

    But the number of people affected is the number of citizens in the country - whether they realise it or not.

    By Blogger deaner, at 11:27 PM  

  • I guess I could continue - the number of people, for instance, who gave a flying fig about seeing the Green Party in the national debates was pretty small. Did you consider that to be a convincing argument?

    No, I thought not.

    By Blogger deaner, at 11:30 PM  

  • The only difference is that in this case, I don't see how people are really affected if it isn't a concern for them.

    In the past, you chose your vote based solely on the criteria of who you wanted to form the government, now you have to take that into account as well as where your money will go. If the part about the money makes no difference to people, they are not affected.

    By Blogger Declan, at 1:34 PM  

  • If the Gomery scandal has taught us anything it is that we as Canadians must free the political process from its dependency on big money. The best way of doing this would be to vastly increase the amount of money each party receives per vote cast. I would say the figure be increased from $1.83 per vote to, say, $5 a vote. On the flip side of things the amount of free advertising available to political parties during an election campaign on the CBC should increase. I believe political parties receive free air time on CBC radio. This should be extended to CBC television and internet based services. That said, giving parties more money and cutting advertising costs is no solution at all if the amount of money parties can spend on say advertising is not caped.

    I would be remiss if I did not say that any suggestion to fix election dates should also be avoided. Fixed elections might seem good in theory, but in practice they extend the election cycle and so drive up costs.

    By Anonymous koby, at 3:37 AM  

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