Sunday, April 03, 2011

Harper's latest claim on party financing fact checked

On Friday, Harper confirmed once again his longstanding plan to axe Canada's public system of political party financing should he obtain a majority government. As he did so, he justified his position by saying that the subsidies are the reason that Canada has had so many elections in recent years, four since 2004.
“It is partly in my view, this per-vote subsidy, this enormous cheque that just keeps piling into political parties every month whether they raise any money or not that means we’re constantly having campaigns,” Harper said.
But that's just not true and there are at least two news outlets that have debunked Harper on it since Friday. There is the Naumetz piece, linked to above, which points out the history of our recent elections and exactly why they've occurred. Second, Keith Boag has done a reality check at the CBC site that debunks Harper's argument as well, along the same lines. The Boag piece is worth watching.

For the record, the reasons for our recent elections are as follows. You can see the reasons have nothing to do with the financing of political parties.

In the summer of 2004 we had an election so that Paul Martin, who had just succeeded Jean Chretien could obtain a mandate to legitimize his accession as Prime Minister. Nothing to do with political party subsidies.

In 2005, Stephen Harper and the other opposition parties brought down the Martin government, largely having to do with the sponsorship matter. Harper was a key initiator. Nothing to do with political party subsidies.

In 2008, Harper crossed the street to the Governor General's house on his own initiative and called an election on the pretense that the Commons had become dysfunctional. Nothing to do with political party subsidies.

Now it's 2011 and we are having an election because yes, the opposition parties defeated the government on a non-confidence motion. This is the first election where arguably his thesis might apply. Except no one in their right mind would view any of the political parties other than the Conservatives as somehow laden with cash supplied by the public financing system that has egged on the election. The contempt finding was the key trigger. And in the background were the Conservative party and government advertising, the government spending and planning that have been evident for months, all of which were intended to set up a tilted landscape during an election. None of it really has anything to do with political party subsidies enabling the current election, particularly on the part of the opposition parties.

There might be other reasons the Conservatives want to offer up to justify their destruction of the public system of party financing. But Harper's latest rationale is just not true if you look at each election on its own and in particular, his role in causing three out of four of these elections. Those pesky facts don't stop him, however, from riling up voters against party financing by feeding cynicism about our having the present election.

These claims by Harper, by the way, are the reason why it is so important that he be questioned during this campaign. The public deserves to see him tested on his many tales.