Xtra
3 min

A completely voluntary contribution

There was a somewhat interesting piece in this week’s Hill Times that has the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, Steven Fletcher, calling the taxpayer subsidy that parties receive for votes after elections an “involuntary contribution,” and tries to raise the spectre of the funding the Bloc Québécois gets as a reason why the subsidy should be terminated. Not because, say, the opposition parties are more dependent on it than the Conservatives are.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May had a very good point in the story when she took issue with the fact that the Conservatives don’t need subsidies considering that the 75% tax rebate on political donations is just as much a subsidy as the amount parties get for the votes they receive. And that said, I think that the biggest overall point was missed.

While the subsidy was intended to get parties off the donations of corporations, it had the added bonus of making voting that much more democratic. One of the biggest complaints about the first-past-the-post system is the somewhat erroneous perception that if you don’t vote for the winning party then you’ve apparently wasted your vote. But what the voter subsidy does is make your vote count financially for the party of your choice – so long as they get over a threshold of votes. If you vote for them, they get $1.95 for your support. It counts in a tangible way.

For Fletcher to call those subsidies an “involuntary contribution” is disingenuous. Those Bloc voters gave their votes – and support – to the Bloc when they cast those votes. Legitimate votes, even if you or I don’t agree with them. Those contributions were voluntary by those Bloc voters.  We shouldn’t let him tell us otherwise because he’s trying to put himself in the midst of a partisan chess match.

Over in Guadalajara, Harper gave Mexico this whole “It’s not you, it’s me,” speech by saying that it’s not their fault that we slapped visa restrictions on them – it’s the fault of our overly permissive refugee system, which according to Harper “encourages bogus claims.” Err, except that the statistics from other countries don’t exactly support that conclusion, and as Maclean’s Kady O’Malley so adeptly pointed out, there seems to be an issue with semantics at play, given that a bogus claim and a failed claim are not exactly the same thing.

Responding to the conclusion of the summit, Liberal Scott Brison accused Harper of “talking down Canada” on the world stage. Brison pointed out to the failure to take responsibility for the visa restrictions, the lack of progress on combating American protectionism and his blaming other parties for the lack of progress on an organised crime bill when in fact the government only introduced it in the Senate days before the summer adjournment. All valid points which deserved to be said.

Remember how Lisa Raitt assured Canadians that the Australian OPAL rector was going to start supplying us with vital medical isotopes during the Chalk River shutdown? And how the Opposition said that it was an optimistic assessment at best? Guess who was right? If you said Lisa Raitt, well, you were wrong. It seems that Australia is having difficulty coping with their domestic supply (which was all OPAL was meant to cover anyway) and none of the isotopes they produce are making it to Canada. Remind me again why we should trust anything the government has said on the isotope issue to date?

And finally, DNA tests have proved that the Canadian woman stranded in Kenya is who she says she is. This after Canadian consular officials declared her to be an impostor and destroyed her passport. It’ll be a little more time for the paperwork to get her travel documents back to Canada sorted, but this raises yet another disturbing question as to the behaviour of the government when it comes to Canadians who face trouble abroad. The list of people they’ve failed is growing, but few people seem to be sounding the alarm. That said, how much does one want to bet that the NDP’s Paul Dewar will be calling for a full pubic inquiry before the week is out?