Can Fletcher bring about change?

Time will tell
By Ken Waddell
A quote in an Ottawa newspaper called The Hill Times pretty much sums up the attitude of many Canadians about the federal vote tax.

It states that, “Canadians outside of Quebec find it galling that the Bloc Québécois, whose raison d’être is Quebec sovereignty, receives 86 per cent of its funding from the federal government, said Democratic Reform Minister of State Steven Fletcher, who is calling for an end to political party subsidies.

“Virtually every Canadian is forced to make involuntary contributions based on parties’ results. I know a lot of people in other parts of the country are not pleased that … the vast majority of the funding that one particular party [the Bloc] gets is from this voter subsidy,” he told The Hill Times last week.

Though the Tories would stand to lose the most revenue if the subsidy were eliminated, they are in the best position to weather its loss because they have the strongest fundraising base. Last year the Conservatives earned $10 million in subsidies, compared to $7.7 million for the Liberals, $4.9 million for the NDP, $2.6 million for the Bloc and $1.8 million for the Greens. But in 2008 the Tories’ subsidy represented only 37 per cent of their total revenues, compared to 63 per cent for the Liberals, 86 per cent for the Bloc, 57 per cent of the NDP’s funding, and 65 per cent of the Greens’. ”

The article also said, “Mr. Fletcher (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia, Man.) said the government still believes the subsidy, which cost taxpayers a total of $27 million last year, should end.”

In Manitoba there’s vote tax as well but after the Manitoba PC party refused to take it, the governing NDP decided not to implement the tax, at least not yet.

Fletcher, who is well know for being an outspoken politician and being Canada’s only quadriplegic MP is absolutely correct. That we have vote tax at all is sad. That we support the separatist Bloc Quebecois for up to 86 per cent of its budget is scandalous. A hundred years ago the Bloc would have been charged with treason. Today we subsidize them.

Some will state that there shouldn’t be tax deductible receipts offered to individuals who contribute to political parties but that is quite another matter. Private donations come in at both the federal and provincial levels to political parties. There’s is a big difference between tax deductible receipts and the vote tax thing. Private donations are governed voluntarily, the vote tax is imposed on all taxpayers and we have no choice as to who it goes to. I doubt that many people want their money going to political parties they don’t agree with.

The problem for parties other than the federal conservatives is that they haven’t brought in a broad enough platform nor a strong enough fund raising machine to raise the kinds of dollars that the Conservatives have raised. Ironically it was the federal Liberals who bought in the current system and they have not been particularly adept at implementing a fund raising program.

The vote tax is undemocratic and it should go. Fletcher is the right minister to lead the charge on this issue. He’s in charge of democratic reform. Perhaps when he gets his annoying bit of legislation out of the way he can turn to reforming the Senate. It should become Triple E, elected, equal and effective. It’s the only way that Canada will attain a stability that isn’t constantly being rocked by regional disparity.

It’s a shame that changes that make so much sense take so long to bring into law. We need to encourage people like Fletcher to keep trying. Canada needs to be drawn together, not ripped apart by taxpayer subsidized treachery.

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