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Op/Ed: Time to kick political parties off taxpayer dole

Kris Sims Canadian Taxpayers Federation
By Kris Sims Canadian Taxpayers Federation
February 5th, 2020

Politicians are taking millions of dollars from your pocket for their campaign signs and attack ads.

After saying he would not force British Columbians to subsidize political parties, Premier John Horgan and his Green Party coalition supporters flip-flopped and imposed a per-vote-subsidy on B.C. taxpayers.

On Feb. 9, 2017, during the lead up to the provincial election Horgan told CFAX radio in Victoria: “At no time have I said that I prefer to make public dollars responsible for political parties, at no time.”

On Feb. 16, 2017 Horgan said in the legislature: “The premier (Christy Clark) in all of her distortions last week, one of them was she said my preference was taxpayers pay for political parties. That’s just not the case.”

Horgan said that before the election, but after the election he created the per-vote subsidy anyway.

Taxpayers will pay about $16.4 million in the per-vote subsidy. Taxpayers will also reimburse political parties 50 per cent of their campaign costs and that’s another $11 million per election.

To be clear: this isn’t money to conduct the election with ballots and scrutineers and maps because that’s an official function of the nonpartisan agency Elections B.C.

This per-vote-subsidy is money that political parties are taking from you to print their lawn signs, stuff your mailboxes with junk fliers and fill the airwaves with attack ads.

This is politician welfare.

What does $27 million look like? That money could pay the salaries of 112 B.C. teachers for five years. It’s the total provincial income tax bill for more than 12,000 B.C. families. Instead, the $27 million of taxpayers’ money will be spent by politicians trying to get themselves elected.

A per-vote-subsidy was a bad idea when it was brought in federally by then prime minister Jean Chretien and it’s a worse idea now because we should all know better.

The national form of politician welfare was eventually axed by former prime minster Stephen Harper triggering the 2008 coalition crisis. The NDP, Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois threatened to bring the government down if they didn’t get their party money from taxpayers. When the dust settled, the subsidy still got cut and the sky didn’t fall. We’ve had three federal elections since the pay-outs were cancelled and politicians have managed to stuff your mailbox just fine without them.

Political parties already get hefty taxpayer benefits via tax credits that are much higher than charities receive. In B.C., people receive a 75 per cent tax credit for the first $100 they donate to a provincial political party. That means if you donate $100 to a party you get a tax credit of $75.

If, however, you donate $100 to the Red Cross you would get a tax credit for $20.06.

It’s hard to justify giving political donations corresponding tax credits that are three or four times more lucrative than those given to charities that help save people from famine.

Political parties already get taxpayer subsidies and they are fully capable of raising their own money. Why should taxpayers give political parties one dollar for their partisan purposes?

If British Columbians want to give money to a political party, they can do so of their own free will. If political parties want to raise money, they can gather donations door-to-door or pass the hat at their meetings. They can raise money online or they could broadcast a talent show telethon where politicians sing for their suppers and viewers donate to B.C.’s next top MLA.

This politician welfare needs to be stopped. It’s time to kick political parties off the taxpayer dole.

Kris Sims is the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The CTF is Canada’s leading non-partisan citizens’ advocacy group fighting for lower taxes, less waste and accountable government. Founded in 1990, the CTF has more than 200,000 supporters and seven offices across Canada. The CTF is funded by free-will contributions which don’t get tax receipts.

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