LETTER: Getting big money out of politics

By on October 4, 2017
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Editor,

In the latest provincial election we saw how corporate and union money tried to override our electoral process to achieve their narrow interests. This is an affront to democracy and heightens voter cynicism. Many young people don’t stay informed, volunteer or vote because of this.

I support legislation that places limits on corporate, union and individual contributions to any political party. I support the current efforts by our BC NDP and Green parties to fix this problem. Our previous provincial Liberal government showed us how perverse it can get (remember $5,000/plate dinners with donors arriving under security in darkened vans — no media allowed).

A complicating reality is that all political parties have to spend money to get their message out and run election campaigns. Volunteers can only do so much. When big money goes away all parties will have to reduce their election barrage. That sounds like relief, but they will still need financial fuel to carry on.

I think the proposed tax payer funded contribution to every legitimate party is a good and pragmatic way to move forward and enhance our democratic process. This funding model gives each party, with 5 to 10 per cent of the popular vote in any riding, $2 to $3 per vote. The cost is estimated at $5 to $10 million, likely spread over four years.

Before you go running around with your taxpayer hair on fire, let me explain my reasoning.

The cost estimate is affordable; our annual provincial budget is billions of dollars. This gives minority parties an opportunity to get their message out. If they don’t become popular maybe there is something wrong with their platform and their message. Regardless, we enhance democratic inclusiveness. This could enhance voter participation. If I’m paying $2 to $3 per vote for other people to vote I better get out and vote myself. All parties can achieve base funding and not spend the majority of their time fund raising. Party members’ time can be better spent on more substantive issues.

This may be a practical way to deal with electoral reform. Minority parties are pushing for reform because the “first past the post” system does not reflect the popular vote and their legitimate right to have representation in government. But the proposed reforms are complicated and confusing. There are at least four electoral reform models and none are straight forward. This confusion could reduce voter participation, the exact opposite of a reform goal. Taxpayer funding of minority parties within the “first past the post” system is an appropriate middle ground. We witnessed how the BC Green party gained influence in government and so can others if they are not so cash strapped. And it would be far less disruptive and expensive than wholesale electoral reform.

Steve Burke
West Kelowna, B.C.

2 Comments

  1. ken Wiebe

    October 5, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Except the NDP funding model does not give anything to “minority parties”. Maybe there is a problem with their message, or maybe they think “big money” in politics, whether corporate, union or tax/government.
    There is nothing wrong with getting coprorate and union money out of politics, but BC residents ought to be free to fund a party of their choice, or not, without the tax man getting involved. As expected, the NDP “fix” a problem by making it worse.

  2. glen rutherford

    October 13, 2017 at 11:21 am

    I dont; think they made it worse at all , there is no reason for corporations to be donating to political parties, that just equals corruption so I think what the NDP is doing is very commendable.

    I think what would work in regards to voter participation is a system where you show up, cast your ballot and get 10 bucks. then those who don’t care to show up to do their part loose out. the money to fund it comes from taxpayers and so long as they do vote, it goes straight back to taxpayers. The leftover money from those who don’t vote could then fund political parties that qualify, on an equal basis.

    there could also be a tax per sign on elections so we dont’ have political parties littering the landscape at election time.

    A rule that they cant’ be made of plastic, only wood and cardboard and must be hand made. they couldn’t just print thousands and hand made signs encourage involvement in the political process.

    What happens now is parties try to outdo each other by the number of signs and this is destructive to the environment and sends out the wrong message entirely. Hand made signs encourage people to think a little for themselves and stimulates political thought and discussion.

    I also feel that Phone polls should be elliminated. polls like angus reed that interrupt people when they are driving or eating dinner are an annoyance to all and the results are very skewed. most of the younger people arent’ going to complete them and so the results are only really from retired people with house phones who will take the time to do them. These inaccurate and skewed results only serve to corrupt the process. The secret ballot is an integral part of our voting system and should be respected.

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