Crawl Across the Ocean

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Deaf Arguing With the Deaf

Here's a quote from Ian Welsh, posting at POGGE, "when a reformer rushes up and says, "there's a fence down the middle of the road, that maskes no sense! We need to tear it down!" a real conservative's reply is "tell me why the fence was put up in the first place and I might let you take it down."

So the Conservatives are, amongst other bad, possibly even worse ideas, proposing to abolish the mechanism set in place by Jean Chretien as part of his campaign finance reform, by which parties are provided with public funding based on the number of votes they received in the last election.

And I've read any number of opinions one way or the other on whether this is good or bad (most falling in line with partisan affiliation), but so far I've yet to see anyone even address the reason why that funding is there in the first place.

And perhaps my memory is faulty, because I haven't seen anyone else mention this despite reading lots of opinions, but wasn't the purpose of public financing of political parties in Canada to avoid the undue influence wielded (in systems where the only source of money is capped individual donations) by groups that could mobilize a large list of small donors around single issues (e.g. a company that tells employees to donate a certain way or an interest group that donates a certain way based on one issue, etc.)

I mean, maybe people disagree that this is a potential problem, maybe they think that using the internet for direct appeals to individual voters can override this concern, but shouldn't people who support abolishing the money that goes to parties based on the number of votes they get at least weigh this concern against the benefits (of which there appear to be none other than people (most of whom, Coyne excepted, feel no concern about tax breaks for individual donations) feeling icky about public financing of political parties for some undefined reason.

Maybe it's always been this way, and I just notice it more now, but it seems like so often we're having discussions about things and completely missing the most basic points about the topic involved. All these people who follow politics are debating whether or not to get rid of the fence and nobody seems to recall or care why it was put there in the first place.

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  • You are seeing good political theatre, something you'd never get with a majority government. This one was even better than slipping in the immigration act legislation changes in the last federal budget bill.

    We live with three levels of government with different rules with respect to election financing, but the results are the same.

    On the municipal side, you have zero spending limits, and anybody can contribute cash (people, corporations, foreign entities).

    On the provincial side, you have some spending limits, and individuals, corporations, unions, etc. can donate up to their heart's content.

    On the federal side, you have spending limits, only individual contributions, but with the government throwing in a substantial amount of cash based off of the popular vote.

    All three systems end up having lobbyists trying to get their share of the trough, whether it's developers, P3's or Bombardier - the restrictions on corporate/unions hasn't changed things a bit with respect to external influences on government.

    That said, probably the optimal solution at this point is shutting down Parliament for a year and giving all of the 308 MPs leave without pay to find work in their constituencies that doesn't involve them getting paid with taxpayers' money. After they come back, they should have a much better perspective.

    By Blogger Sacha, at 12:39 AM  

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