Tory strategy in framing the public financing debate is intellectually dishonest at best

ndp-liberal-coalitionAlmost more troubling to me than Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper’s plans to scrap public financing of political parties, is the realization that the Prime Minister’s sycophants over at the Blogging Tories are parroting a particular line of rhetoric that any intellectually honest person would realize doesn’t even make sense.

The issue, for those of you who haven’t heard, is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wishes to scrap the public financing that the political parties winning more than 2% of the vote receive. The rationale he’s given for this is as a way of cutting federal spending and avoiding a deficit. But, since the Conservatives only rely on such funding for roughly 37% of this type of funding as a source of revenue compared to roughly 57% for the NDP and upwards of two-thirds for the Liberals, Bloc and Greens, this proposal would have the effect of hammering the opposition parties and emaciating the opposition much as Jim Flaherty had promised to do to anyone who stood in his way.

Let’s cut through the (insert expletive here):

Let’s ignore the fact even the National Post and the Globe & Mail have called out Harper’s moves as “Machiavellian” and wrong.

Let’s ignore the fact that it would emaciate the opposition, creating an effective one-party state

I’d ask Conservatives to have some intellectual honesty for a moment. Maybe they believe on ideological grounds that the federal government should not be funding political parties despite the fact that virtually every industrialized democracy has some form of funding mechanisms. That’s fine. If Conservatives honestly believe in cutting this funding on its merits, then I could at least respect that and, what is more, we could engage in a debate about that on its merits. But just read through the comments on (a favourite spot for Blogging Tory trolls) and you’ll see that the Tories’ sycophants are busy cloaking this debate in the rhetoric of saving money when the total cost of the financing program is less than $30 million dollars compared to a federal budget of roughly $250 billion.

In other words, this program is less than 0.01% of federal expenditures according to the government’s own sources.

If you’re interested in seeing that graphically, allow me to put that into perspective. No matter how large I made this pie chart below, I could not make the sliver representing the public financing costs show as more than one pixel across.


Put another way, the distance from my outstretched fingertip to outstretched fingertip is the same as my height (roughly 5’10”). If I were to chop off 0.01% of my body – the same percentage as the public funding costs the government — that would be the equivalent of cutting only 1/142nd of an inch. That’s less than the width that would be removed by filing my nail once with an emery board. In fact, it’s less than one half of the thickness of one sheet of standard 8 ½ x 11 printer paper, given my height.

So please, Conservatives, if you want to cut the public funding of political parties, stop insulting everyone’s intelligence by telling us that you just want to save the federal budget from deficit. It’d be preferable if you just went out there and said that you are extreme right-wing fanatics who would be perfectly contented living in a one party state in order to satisfy your various ideological fetishes.

Really, admitting your problem is the first step to recovery.

(Getting kicked out of government is the second step)

See also:

It may be necessary, but remember that NDP/Liberal coalitions are like abusive marriages

Harper slams Liberal/NDP “backroom deal”, forgets he came to power through “backroom deal” himself

The coalition must go forth even though Harper has retreated


Update: After I wrote this piece, the Conservatives reluctantly agreed to table the one-party state bill as a separate confidence motion rather than attach it to the ways and means money bill which is due for a vote on Monday.  The fact that the Conservatives still plan on proceding with this bill suggests to me that the issue of party financing and the risk of a one-party state remain the central propelling matters irrespective of whether they are included in the bill due for a vote on Monday or not.


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