Two cheers for public funding of Canadian political parties … and the Bloc Québécois

Aug 17th, 2009 | By | Category: In Brief
Showing the colours to the rest of Canada

Showing the colours to the rest of Canada

The Vancouver Sun thinks “A Halloween election would be … frightening.” Prime Minister Harper himself has said “I can assure you that I do not intend to trigger an election.” (Whatever that means?)

Another Canadian federal election may nonetheless be upon us before the end of 2009. We have commissioned a deeper report from our resident deep thinker, Frank Bunting. And we hope it will be ready soon.

Meanwhile, as just one of various current election noises, Mr. Harper’s Minister of State for Democratic Reform, Steven Fletcher, has been suggesting that “Public per-vote subsidies to political parties should be eliminated.” He has also noted that these subsidies pay more than 85% of the bills of the Bloc Québécois, which does not even believe in Canada as we know it today.

Mr. Fletcher has not, as others have done recently, proposed that public subsidies should just be eliminated for the BQ (by requiring, e.g., that eligible federal parties run candidates in more than one province). He has just suggested ending the BQ  anomaly by ending subsidies for all parties.

An opinion poll last December, in the wake of the vast dysfunctionality that arose the last time the Harper government made this same wild proposal, suggested a majority of Canadians may even support ending federal party subsidies. But polls of this sort can be quite mercurial. We would like to clarify our staunch advocacy of two key propositions in the wider debate:

BQ leader Gilles Duceppe at St. Jean Baptiste parade on Rue Sherbrooke, Montréal, Sunday, June 24, 2007.

BQ leader Gilles Duceppe at St. Jean Baptiste parade on Rue Sherbrooke, Montréal, Sunday, June 24, 2007: does this really look like the end of Canada?

First, we believe that we the Canadian people ought to stick with the current public subsidies to federal political parties, introduced by the Chrétien government in 2003. They reduce the prospect that the same elites who run the economy will ultimately run the democratic political system too. And for what you get when that prospect grows too great, just look at the raging health care debate next door.

Second, we agree with Chantal Hébert in today’s Toronto Star that the ultimate argument for including the BQ in this federal largesse is about democratic principles. But  we’d stress another point she makes as well. In fact “two decades of Bloc presence in Parliament has done more for federalism than for sovereignty in Quebec.”

Or, humour is one thing that keeps us going in Canada. And the last laugh here belongs to “ the majority of Canadians who want to keep the country united.”

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