Back in November 2008, Prime Minister Stephen HarperÂ inadvertently set off a constitutional crisis by proposing to abolish Canada’s system of subsidizing political parties.Â Â After a sequence of events that saw Parliament prorogued, Harper dropped the plan to eliminate the subsidies. It’s too bad that he did.
Though notÂ for the reason that the National Post focuses upon in its lead editorial today.Â The newspaperÂ maintains that the subsidies disproportionately favour the Bloc Quebecois in helping fund the cause of separatism. From a rhetorical standpoint, it’s understandable that the Post’s editors chose to emphasize this point.Â Strange is the most charitableÂ word toÂ describeÂ a policy of assisting parties whose overriding aim is to break up the country. But the problem is not so much that public money is going to a political group withÂ controversial views. That’s a dangerous basis for the state to act upon, as it presupposes that some political opinions are more worthy of governmentÂ support than others.
The real problem is thatÂ individuals are being forced to hand over a portion of their taxes to partiesÂ withÂ which they disagree.Â A Liberal party supporter isÂ compelled to pay for the Conservatives, while an NDP’er is coerced into funding the Bloc. To its credit, the Post editorial acknowledges this, but failed to elaborate on it and frame it as the root issue. In fact, one can go further and complain that the party subsidization scheme forces peopleÂ into funding a political process that they might not want to take part in at all.
Those who advocate the stateÂ financing ofÂ political campaignsÂ insist that a completely privatized system ofÂ electoral competition will favorÂ corporations and the wealthy. They will then, so the argument goes, dominateÂ the levers of government andÂ rule againstÂ the interests of the middle classes and the poor.Â
The response to that is to make the government a less inviting entity to monopolize. Limit the state to the protection of our lives, liberties, and propertyÂ – Â there’d be less reason, then, for various interest groups to try to influence the state to divert resources in their direction at everyone else’s expense.