Thursday, May 26, 2011

Canadians Need to Know: Who Will Be Funding their Political Parties?

The Conservative government of Canada has announced it will drop all government funding to political parties, in an effort to save money. Opponents of this move can no longer block it because the Conservatives now have a majority government.

Funding of political parties was originally introduced to prevent the big money interests from dominating the political system of Canada as it has in the USA. In the USA, where there is no vote-based taxpayer funding, apparently 90% of representatives time is taken up with fundraising, and 100% of their political support is given to repay top political donors. Canada has (for a short time anyway) a system of subsidizing parties based on their popular vote, and limiting donations outside the subsidy. In theory this system put more emphasis on doing the will of the voters, and less on doing the will of the wealthy political contributors and religious fanatics.

It is believed the Conservatives will be the only party to benefit benefit from defunding, because they can raise the most money outside the subsidy. But we still have a limit on outside donors, although I wonder how long this will last, as I saw one political columnist in the Ottawa Citizen already calling for the abolition of these limits, claiming that abolishing these limits will not favour the Conservatives or hurt the opposition.

As we see the Canadian Government cave in to outside funding pressure, I am hoping that we will also see an increase in reporting on where the funding comes from. In the case of the Liberals, I have no idea where it all came from. For the NDP, it was probably a lot of labour union support. I personally gave money to the Green Party, however I did not expected anything in return (and got nothing either).

I suspect that the Conservative funding is coming from a combination of organized religion (especially the pro-life churches and Born Again Christians) and oil companies. These fundamentalist churches have already organized themselves into such a blatantly political force in the USA that no president can get elected without declaring he is for God. So far this religious faction has had to stay under cover in Canada, especially with Stephen Harper promising to not get involved in the abortion issue. But the fundamentalists are still giving money to the Conservatives in hope that as soon as the Conservatives take their seats as a majority government, they will begin to enact laws against abortion. There has already been a bitterly contested demonstration in Ottawa where I saw one the pro-Lifer in a TV interview boasting that they now had a majority of seats in parliament.

The oil companies seem to be the main financial support for the Conservatives. The Conservatives are based in Alberta, the oil province, where most of the oil companies have head offices. Also, Harper has already followed the oil company line on global warming and pollution controls.

The entire Conservative party is a mirror image of the Republican party in the USA. They are based in Alberta, which is the Canadian province most similar to Texas. The only thing missing is the old Southern slave states (the old Confederacy), for which happily there is no real parallel in Canada. But there is a parallel in the oil industry and in religion, in fact it is the Canadian branches of the same American oil companies and American religions that will be contributing most to the Canadian Conservative party. And ironically, or cynically, the Conservatives accused the Liberals of running a closeted American (Ignatieff) as their leader.

So as we cut the taxpayer funding to political parties, let's at least find out for sure where the other funding is coming from, if that is at all possible any more.


  1. Killing the subsidy is extremely bad for Canadian democracy. Part of the endless 'conservative' erosion of democracy.

    Control of our democracy will end up in the hands of a very small number of wealthy people: just 0.8% to 1.2% of registered voters will effectively control how 100% of the funding gets allocated to parties and candidates.

  2. A bit off-topic, but Neil Macdonald (for whose observations of the American political scene I have considerable respect) has just posted a piece on CBC on the subject of God and taxes, how America is governed.

    Interestingly enough, yesterday's New York Times approval poll indicates a groundswell of disapproval for the Tea Party, doubling to 40% over the past year (although the Tea Party approvers appear to be holding rock solid at 20%).