Whose election is it anyway?

January 28, 2011. Who wants an election? Apparently not Messrs Harper, Ignatieff nor Layton – it’s all: “After you, Alphonse!” according to them.

So then why are millions being spent on attack ads, political polling, renovating war rooms [“war” room ?] and reserving campaign jets?

They even go through the trouble of asking us if we want an election. Nearly half the people polled by Angus-Reid said yes [49%] and 34% said no. But nearly two-thirds of CARP members in the last poll said NO. Since older Canadians are the most politically engaged voters, what part of “no” do they not understand?

Regardless, some $40 million will be spent on an election – some say this Spring – so that one party can get a majority or another get into power. Is there another reason for an election that has been articulated?

Then, there’s that per vote subsidy that the Conservatives proposed to cancel on November 27, 2008 and withdrew the proposal two days later. But now it’s back.

The per vote subsidy was instituted by the Chrétien government as part of the initiative to set maximum limits on contributions from individuals, corporations, trade unions and non-profits.

In 2010, the five parties received $27.4-million from the per vote subsidies. The Conservatives received $10.4-million; the Liberals received $7.3-million; the NDP received $5.0-million; the Bloc Québécois received $2.8-million; and the Green Party received $1.9-million.

But even without the per vote subsidy, the political parties receive subsides through the tax credit for political donations. The income tax credit for political contributions by individuals is: 75 per cent on the first $400; 50 per cent on the next $350; and 33.33 per cent on any amount over $750 up to the limit. The maximum tax credit is $650 for donations totalling $1,275 in a calendar year. The estimated cost of the tax credit for political contributions for 2009 is $20-million, and $21-million in 2010. This is based on annual fundraising whether the parties are running in an election that year or not.

Wait! We’re not done.

All candidates who obtain at least 10 per cent of the total vote in their district are reimbursed for up to 60 per cent of their “election expenses” plus allowable “personal expenses.” In the 2006 election, $24.6-million was paid out.

And there’s more. The Parties also get reimbursed 50 per cent of their actual “election expenses” if they obtain at least two per cent of the total valid votes cast in a general election, or five per cent of the valid votes cast in the ridings where they have endorsed candidates. In the 2008 election, $29.2-million in reimbursement was distributed: Conservative Party, $9.71-million; NDP, $8.38-million; Liberal, $7.26-million; BQ, $2.44-million; and Green, $1.40-million.

So let’s add it up: total per vote subsidies in 2010 were $27.4-million; total tax credits in 2010 were $21-million; reimbursement of parties for 2008 election expenses were $29.2-million; reimbursements of candidates for 2006 election expenses were $24.6-million. That’s over $80 million in taxpayer funded subsidies paid out to the political parties just for running in the past election and another $20 million or so annually on their fundraising.

So what’s another $40 million to let them do it all over again?

Let’s not be too cynical. It is a legitimate price to pay to ensure that there is a level playing field in politics so that we are not governed only by multi-billionaires. That said, it is also legitimate for all of us paying for the exercise to demand from the players a grand vision that encompasses the best of Canadian values and aspirations.

It is OUR election after all. We pay for every cent of it. So it is up to us to make sure that we make good use of it and exercise our franchise deliberately.

Keywords: government, election