OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has no plans to bring back the per-vote subsidy — the cash given to each political party in relation to their portion of the popular vote, The Huffington Post Canada has learned.
The financing was brought in in 2004 when former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien introduced limits to individual, corporate and union donations.
In 2011, the subsidy was worth about $2.04 for every vote obtained by a political party beyond a minimum threshold. It was gradually reduced and then eliminated after Conservative Stephen Harper won a majority government.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
All opposition parties decried the move. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said removing the subsidy would concentrate power in the hands of those with deep pockets.
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, the current public safety minister, told CBC News at the time that the subsidies “level the playing field” between parties, allowing even the smaller ones to compete.
“But Mr. Harper’s position is, essentially, let the big and the wealthy and the most privileged run the show and all the other voices should simply be silenced," he said.
Stephen Harper sought to eliminate the per-vote subsidy after winning the 2008 federal election. (Photo: CP)
Soon after coming into office, Harper’s government reduced the amount individuals can contribute, and banned corporations and unions from donating altogether. But it was his desire after the 2008 election to scrap the per-vote subsidy that really caught the opposition’s ire — and it was one of the reasons why the parties banded together to try to defeat the newly elected government.
But now that the Liberal party has adapted to the lower individual donation limits and life without the per-vote subsidy, Trudeau's government appears to be in no rush to reinstate the public financing, which would greatly benefit the NDP and smaller parties.
According to the latest filings available at Elections Canada, between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2016:
- The Conservatives raised the most money, $5,469,856
- The Liberals raised $4,031,043
- The NDP had one of its worst quarters, raising only $1,351,179
- The Greens raised $451,555
- The Bloc reported $96,540 in donations.
Trudeau’s Liberals did not campaign on reinstating the subsidy.
But Tuesday, its provincial cousins in Ontario moved to reform political fundraising by slashing the amount of money individuals can donate, and by introducing a public subsidy, among other changes.
Next year, the Ontario provincial parties (Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democrats, and Greens) will get $2.26 for each vote they received during the 2014 campaign. The amount will be gradually reduced and could be phased out by 2022.
"Democracy is not free," Yasir Naqvi, the Ontario government House leader, told reporters at Queen’s Park.
Not considering such changes: Monsef
In a statement to HuffPost, federal Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef said her attention is currently focused elsewhere.
"We're not considering such changes at the moment; my focus is on electoral and senate reform and I am also considering reforms to the Fair Elections Act," she wrote.
"Our ultimate goal with all reforms is to foster a more inclusive and engaged Canada and that's what we're going to do."
NDP Democratic Institutions critic Nathan Cullen told HuffPost he thinks the discussion about returning the per-vote subsidy could be included when reforms to the Tories’ Fair Elections Act are reviewed.
It keeps the influence of money out of politics, he wrote in an email.
May told HuffPost the per vote subsidy should be revisited.
"It was the only taxpayer support to political parties that was generated by a citizen's choice," she said. "Like, I don't choose to have 75 per cent of all donations that go to Conservatives come out of the public purse."
Under the current rules, if someone donates $400 to a political party, the taxpayers give them back $300, May said. Those tax breaks for party donors, and the generous refunds on election expenses MPs and parties get unfairly benefit parties who raise and spend the most, she said.
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