Opinion

Alba: The politics of who, rather than what, are often in play in Ottawa

One of the questions I am often asked during my summer listening tour, and in particular when meeting with local government representatives, is about the differences between serving on Penticton council compared to being a Member of Parliament.

Although there are many differences, one area that stands out is in the terms of disagreement.

On city council it was common that individual council members would disagree on some issues, but we could often find agreement on others.

By contrast, in Ottawa disagreement for the sake of being disagreeable is almost the status quo.

As an example, I have noticed that on almost every occasion when the government has changed a policy from that of the former Liberal government, the howls of outrage and condemnation from Liberal MPs and supporters suggests that there was only one possible way of doing things–the Liberal way.

I don’t mean to sound political but on city council, we would often at least consider different policies and ideas and were far less concerned over who authored whatever policy we were contemplating changing.

Our goal was to always find a better or more efficient way to get things done, not unlike the objective for the federal government in Ottawa.

I will provide an example of this to further illustrate.

During last year’s 2011 federal budget bill introduced by the government, we honored an election commitment to eliminate direct taxpayer subsidies for political parties.

At the time, the outrage from Liberals that the government would dare to change a policy created by a Liberal government headed by Jean Chretien were heard across the nation.

The claims from critics even went so far as to suggest that without direct taxpayer handouts for political parties, our very Canadian democratic system was under attack.

Over-the-top claims and selective misinformation are becoming a common occurrence.

Now, one year later, I believe it is important to revisit this policy created by the government to observe firsthand what has really occurred.

Are major political parties floundering for survival without your tax dollars as many critics suggested they would be?

The removal of the taxpayers subsidies is being done over a four year time frame and this is the first year where parties will receive less of your money that was based on a per vote subsidy.

Last week, the second quarter political party fundraising returns were released publicly and the results are indeed very surprising.

For the Liberals, the party who, when in government, created the policy arguing that political parties could not survive without your tax dollars— and in spite of currently being the number three party in Canada—has actually raised more money than the NDP in the second quarter with more than $1.8 million raised in just the past three months alone.

For the NDP, who raised more than $1.7million in the second quarter, the total now stands at $3.74 million year-to-date. That is the amount of money the NDP would normally raise in an entire non-election year when the per vote subsidies were in place.

The Green Party also had an increase in donations in the second quarter of the year over the first and the only federal party to show a decline was the Bloc Quebecois.

The Conservative second quarter donations reached $3.7 million from close to 29,000 donors.

The Liberals currently posted over 22,000 donors and the NDP is close to 18,500 donors.

Clearly, when taxpayer subsidies are taken away and political parties are required to raise funds from their own supporters they are proving remarkably capable of doing so.

In other words, handing over your hard earned tax dollars to political parties was completely unnecessary, and more so when it should be noted that there are already generous tax breaks for those who make political donations.

Once the taxpayer subsidies for political parties are completely phased out taxpayer’s will be saving over $ 27 million each and every year.

These savings are significant.

For example the government’s newly announced loan forgiveness program that helps encourage doctors and other medical professionals to practice in under-serviced rural communities has a budget of $9 million. In spite of critic’s false claims to the contrary, ending handouts to political parties is the right thing to do so your tax dollars can be better spent helping Canadians instead of playing partisan politics.

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