Apr 232012
 

Flash Drive with Ron Gray: The Sham “Ethics” of Campaign Finance

Watching the hearings by the Commons Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics is a bizarre sort of entertainment—almost as much fun as a root canal. The partisan jousting between the MPs makes a mockery of the idea that this is any sort of objective “enquiry”.

A example: NDP MP Pat Martin misquoted witness David Marler (a Conservative candidate) as having said the Tory “in-and-out” funding of television advertising “didn’t pass the smell test.”

“That’s not what I said,” retorted Marler, who then explained that he said he refused to sign because, as a first-time candidate, he didn’t understand what was being proposed—and as a lawyer, he refuses to sign anything he doesn’t understand. “If my Mom proposed it, I wouldn’t—well, maybe I’d sign it for my Mom, because I respect her,” he added. “But not even for a brother would I sign something I didn’t understand.”

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro then skewered Martin nicely by pointing out that a shared national media purchase, partly reported as a local advertising expense, was exactly what the NDP had done for Olivia Chow in Toronto’s Trinity/Spadina riding.

What makes this “ethics” investigation so painful is that no one questions the ethics of the four parties in Parliament voting themselves $30 million a year of taxpayers’ money, while strangling the fund-raising of other parties.

Clearly, those already in the House want to pull up the drawbridge behind them, to block new parties and new ideas. The formula for funding the four parties in Parliament—tied to the number of votes they gained in the last election—is a formula for preserving the status quo: those who got the most votes get more money to campaign for reelection.

But left out in the cold by this equation is the indefeasible right of voters to have access to adequate information about all the options available to them.

The honorable Members sitting around the table seem only to care about holding onto their sinecures by bolstering their parties’ partisan advantages.

The CHP has several times proposed a plan by which each taxpayer—from whom the lion’s share of the money for election campaigns now comes, after all—should have the right to designate which party gets their money.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote, 200 years ago: “It is tyrannical to compel a man to pay for the promulgation of ideas with which he does not agree.” For example, like most pro-Life Canadians, I disagree strongly with the anti-life policies of the four parties that dominate the House of Commons. Why, then, should I be compelled to finance their immoral policies?

Canadians should write to their MPs and demand a change in the election financing formula. If taxpayers’ funds are to be doled out to politicians, let each taxpayer decide who gets their $2. Doesn’t that make more sense?

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