Penticton Western News letters to the editor.

Letter: Getting big money out of democracy

Taxpayer funded contribution to every legitimate party is a good and pragmatic way to move forward

In the latest federal and B.C. provincial elections we saw how big corporate and union money tried to override and push Canadian citizens, so they could achieve their narrow interests.

This is an affront to Canadian democracy and heightens cynicism about our political process. Many young people don’t participate (stay informed, volunteer and vote) because of this underlying cynicism.

So, I support all past and current legislation that places limits on corporate, union and individual money contributions to any political party in Canada and in every province. 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. So when big money goes away all parties will have to reduce their election barrage. That sounds like relief, but they will still need some financial fuel to carry on.

I think that a taxpayer 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 that gains a minimum popular vote (eg. five to 10 per cent) in any riding, a financial contribution (currently projected to be $2-3/vote). I support the current efforts by the BC NDP and BC Green party to move forward on this front. The cost is estimated to be in the $40 million range.

Before you go running around with your taxpayer hair on fire (eg. Tom Fletcher, Politicians loot public treasury, Western News, Sept.27) let me explain my reasoning:

1. The cost estimate of $40 million every four years at election time is affordable. Our annual provincial budget is in the billions of dollars.

2. This provides an opportunity for minority parties to get their message out to voters. If they don’t become popular maybe there is something wrong with their platform and their message. Regardless, we enhance democratic inclusiveness.

3. All parties can achieve base funding and not spend a huge majority of their time fundraising. Party members’ time can be better spent on more substantive long term issues.

4. This may well enhance voter participation. If I’m paying $2-3/vote for other people to cast their vote I better get out and vote myself. Even young people might get that money motivator.

5. This may be a practical way to deal with electoral reform. Minority parties are pushing for electoral 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. By my count there are at least four electoral reform models and none are straight forward. This confusion could actually reduce voter participation, the exact opposite of an electoral 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 critical influence in government and so can others if they are not so cash strapped.

6. This will be far less disruptive and expensive than wholesale electoral reform. Simply crunching the reform system data could be a technical barrier. High end computing systems such as the plagued “Phoenix” federal payroll fiasco reminds us that minimizing front end complications is best.

Steve Burke

West Kelowna