Thursday, March 18, 2010

The End of 10-Percenters?

It may be the end of an era in Ottawa, as MPs have voted to trash 10-percenters. Sadly Canadians may need to turn to other sources to find out about Michael Ignatieff's secret coalition plans, and what who Stephen Harper is trying to kill.

MPs have voted to put a stop to the practice of mailing taxpayer-funded political flyers to voters outside their own ridings.

In a surprisingly close result, MPs passed Tuesday a Liberal motion to scrap the so-called ten percenters by a vote of 140-137.

New Democrats, who had argued in favour of retaining the right to communicate with voters all across the country, ended up supporting the motion, which included several other proposals aimed at saving the government more than $1-billion annually.

The Bloc Quebecois also supported it while Conservatives, who've made the most use of the mailouts, were opposed.


Even though the Liberals are trumpeting this as a binding motion, in reality, we've descended into the kind of procedural grey water that only Kady O'Malley, and maybe 1 or 2 of the party whips actually understand. From what I've read, it appears a super secret all-party committee will be discussing this on Monday. Complicating the issue is that Stephen Harper has shown a willingness to respect the vote he lost, while Jack Layton is suffering some buyers remorse on the vote he won:

In fact, the NDP, which voted for the Liberal motion, may be the party that gets the Conservatives off the hook on the bulk-mailing issue.

NDP Leader Jack Layton launched a blistering tirade against "King Stephen Harper" only to waffle when it came down to whether his party would actually support the ten-percenter ban behind the closed doors of the Board of Internal Economy meetings.

"There were some (measures in the motion) where we would have done it slightly differently and so we'll have to take those issues up at the Board of Internal Economy," Layton said when pressed on the ban.

His party House leader, Libby Davies, indicated the ten-percenter vote may be the jumping-off point for a negotiation over bulk mail.

"We believe we've got to focus on the abuses and not rule out what is a legitimate use of ten-percenters by members outside of their own ridings," Davies, who sits on the board, said in an interview.


So they voted for it, even though they're against it. O...K...

And no one, not even the Liberals, seem to be pretending that the rest of the motion - which calls for the government to slash a billion dollars in partisan advertising and consultant expenses - has a chance of actually happening.

But, just to toss a nutty idea out there - what if the Liberals agreed to a 5 year phase-out of the public vote subsidy? They're closing the fundraising gap on the Tories, and losing the subsidy would hurt the NDP, Bloc, and Greens more than the Liberals. Here's the percentage of revenue each party generates from the subsidy:

CPC 37%
Lib 43%
NDP 55%
Green 62%
Bloc 82%

In exchange, the Conservatives would agree to trash the billion dollars in partisan expenses the Liberal motion calls for. Because I'd wager the Conservatives are getting more value from that than they are from either their subsidy or fundraising dollars.

I doubt it would happen, but it's something to think about.

15 Comments:

  • Why not dump the subsidy in exchange for raising the personal donation limit back to $5000, with union and corporate donations still banned.

    I'd go for that.

    By Blogger Jeff Jedras, at 7:02 PM  

  • Is it likely Harper will want to dump the subsidy if it hurts the NDP more than the LPC? Wouldn't that be the kind of thing that drives the parties to discuss uniting into one?

    Even if there is not talk about merging, doesn't it benefit Harper if the NDP are competitive? Taking a large source of their funding away would hurt that, especially since the LPC fundraising machine is getting better.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 7:08 PM  

  • a billion dollars in partisan advertising and consultant expenses

    WHAT???

    A billion dollars???

    Let me get this straight... it's "bad" when the Liberals steal, but it's okay for all the parties to get together and spend a BILLION dollars on their moronic clown-act (while killing trees at the same time)???

    Ugh... what the Smurf happens to people's heads upon being elected, anyway???

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 8:04 PM  

  • Jeff - Not a bad suggestion. And it would be reasonable since the parties need to raise cash to make up for the loss of the subsidy.

    Gayle - Harper has tried to dump the subsidy before and seems to still want to.

    Jacques - most of the billion comes from government advertising (all those lovely economic action plan ads). I think the 10-percenters only run about 20-30 million a year.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 8:47 PM  

  • Jeff - Not a bad suggestion. And it would be reasonable since the parties need to raise cash to make up for the loss of the subsidy.

    No, they don't "need" to make up for the subsidy if it's canceled. If parties aren't able to raise as much money as before, what exactly will change? Few attack ads on TV? Big loss.

    Kill the out-of-riding 10 percenters, kill the per-vote subsidy, and leave the donation limits where they are. (Heck, I wouldn't mind if they were lowered down to $500 or so.)

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 11:35 PM  

  • "Harper has tried to dump the subsidy before and seems to still want to."

    He tried to do it when the LPC could not raise money and were in debt after losing the election (which is not a great time to start raising donations). 18 months later the LPC would be hurt by stopping this, but they would not be devastated. The NDP would suffer a lot more.

    I am not sure Harper does want to end the subsidy. I think it is possible he just threatens to do that whenever he thinks the opposition are opposing too much.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 1:37 AM  

  • If you remove the subsidy donation limits have to go up. $1,100 (or $2,200 if you give to a riding) is way too low of an amount. I know it makes people uncomfortable but democracy costs money and that money has to come from somewhere.

    One thing that might be clever for the Liberals to push for is the elimination of anonymous contributions. I don't know the amount the cons raised using this loop hole but i am guessing it was way more then the other parties did....

    By Anonymous Rich, at 2:30 AM  

  • Funny isn't it that the CPC accepted those subsidies when they needed them. In fact, if it wasn't for them, The Reform/Alliance wouldn't be where they are today. What ingrates.

    Chretien did this to clean up political financing by keeping bagmen, unions and corporations out of it.

    I can't understand why people get so worked up about $1.95 and it isn't even per year. It's per election which would be even less when you consider non-election years.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:26 AM  

  • Funny isn't it that the CPC accepted those subsidies when they needed them. In fact, if it wasn't for them, The Reform/Alliance wouldn't be where they are today. What ingrates.

    Wow, you couldn't be more wrong if you tried. The subsidies weren't introduced until 2004, after the Alliance/PC merger.

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 11:00 AM  

  • BTW, it is $1.95 every year, not just election years.

    Oh, and Chretien did it to screw over Paul Martin. No more, no less.

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 11:02 AM  

  • Rich: If you remove the subsidy donation limits have to go up. $1,100 (or $2,200 if you give to a riding) is way too low of an amount. I know it makes people uncomfortable but democracy costs money and that money has to come from somewhere.

    Democracy != Political party spending

    Again, what exactly would we miss out on? If the parties are unable to raise enough money to match their current spending levels, they'll cut back on the number of attack ads they run on TV, or the number of leaflets they leave in your mailbox, and so forth. How can that possibly be considered a loss of democracy?

    One thing that might be clever for the Liberals to push for is the elimination of anonymous contributions. I don't know the amount the cons raised using this loop hole but i am guessing it was way more then the other parties did....

    ...and with five minutes of research on elections.ca, we discover:

    Anonymous donations to the NDP, 2007: $4,342.00 from 575 gifts
    Anonymous donations to the NDP, 2008: $878.00 from 101 gifts

    Anonymous donations to the Liberals, 2007: $9,563.68 from 1,111 gifts
    Anonymous donations to the Liberals, 2008: $12,100.02 from 1,142 gifts

    Anonymous donations to the Conservatives, 2007: $0
    Anonymous donations to the Conservatives, 2008: $0

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 2:19 PM  

  • If parties aren't able to raise as much money as before, what exactly will change? Few attack ads on TV? Big loss.

    ZING!! Well said - je suis d'accord.

    How can that possibly be considered a loss of democracy?

    Again, I agree. We live in an era where each party leader or candidate-for-MP can make a speech on YouTube for free.

    Why do we need to spend billions of dollars advertising the already well-known fact that the parties hate each other and consider one another to be evil?

    I can see the 'need', I suppose, to shuttle candidates around the country for speeches, but we can cut political advertising heavily, save money, and have a far healthier public discussion.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 4:09 PM  

  • I've been advocating that the public subsidy to political parties should remain in place but with one key change: in order to qualify, a party must run candidates in five or more provinces and/or territories. This small change would, by default, prevent the Bloc Quebecois from receiving the federal allowance, which as you point out, makes up 82% of the party's funding. The federal government has a duty to ensure that political parties vying for national office ought to at least have national perspective.

    Since electoral success depends in large part on the health of a party's finances, this change could have an enormous impact on how federal politics are played out in Quebec. Either the Bloc becomes more adept at raising private money or it will find itself slowly pushed to the perimeter of the electoral map.

    Moderate Quebec voters have been supporting the Bloc because of a lack of alternatives, not because of the Bloc's sovereigntist politics. It costs virtually nothing for Quebec voters to support the Bloc with their vote. Whether or not Quebec voters will support the party with their cold, hard cash is another question entirely.

    In order to appeal to moderate voters in Quebec for financial support, the Bloc would be forced to widen its platform and lessen its emphasis on sovereignty, or take Bouchard's example and drop it altogether. I'm betting the Bloc's leadership and core supporters will be unable to make this change and the party will whither and die with along with its finances.

    This is a small change that Liberals, NDP and Conservatives can all support as it puts Quebec votes back into play in the short term and puts a clear majority government up for grabs.

    By Blogger Phil, at 12:54 AM  

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    By Blogger Adli Yusof, at 1:41 AM  

  • Wow, you couldn't be more wrong if you tried. The subsidies weren't introduced until 2004, after the Alliance/PC merger.

    All of those parties did and still take advantage of the political subsidies for contributions. Not surprisingly, the Cons aren't talking about this fact. Eliminating the per-vote subsidy while maintaining that for contributions creates a disparity in political voice between the haves and the have-nots in society.

    To those who say you don't need

    By Blogger ChrisInKW, at 5:37 PM  

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