Paying to remove a political stench

 

The Liberal opposition and the provincial media (one and the same?) have had a field day with the NDP’s plan gently ease political parties’ snouts being pulled out of corporate and union troughs.

There is no doubt the plan to help parties adjust to the financial reality of not being able to accept huge sums of money from corporate and union donors came out of the blue. And, in yet another strange plot twist in what has become even ‘twistier’ than Shonda Rhimes TV shows … B.C. politics … the Liberals are scoring points hammering the NDP on an issue that they not only refused to act on, they scoffed at in the face of mounting public pressure to do so.

I’ll admit, the funding aspect came as a surprise, but it’s better than the alternative … the wild west of political donations. Twenty-seven million is a small price to pay to restore integrity to our political system, integrity which vanished when politicians stopped understanding that accepting huge amounts of money from those doing business with government is wrong.

Vancouver Sun columnist Douglas Todd wrote a column on this issue pointing out that 34 Organization for Economic Development member countries fund their political parties to some degree.

“They do so to reduce the risk that vested interests will indulge in ‘policy capture,’ which refers to how powerful donors skew politicians’ legislation to suit their monetary interests,” he wrote.

Exactly. They do so to avoid corruption.

It wasn’t too long ago that the likes of Rich Coleman and Bill Bennett would snort derision at any such suggestion. I, for one, am glad those days are over.

The NDP definitely shouldn’t have dropped the party funding plan at the 11th hour, but it’s a small price to pay to relieve ourselves of the stench that for far too many was the smell of victory.

The only issue I have with the funding plan is it pays the parties based on how many votes they receive ($2.50 per vote).

That system rewards the winners. The NDP and the Liberals will get the lion’s share of the funding, the Greens will get a smattering, and pretty much everyone else is shut out.

If the public is going to get involved financially, we should fund the process, not the parties.

It would be better to fund individual candidates rather than parties, after all, isn’t that what funding is all about … the campaign?

Rather than cutting a cheque to political parties to spend however they like, it would be better to individual campaigns.

For example: Each candidate would be allotted a certain amount of money to spend during their campaign. The money would have to be spent directly on the local campaign and, wherever possible, in the candidate’s riding.

Even better, the money would never touch the candidate’s, or the party’s, hands. The candidate would be able to incur expenses related to the campaign (office space, signs, etc.) and send the invoices to Elections BC, who would pay the bills. This would avoid candidates jumping into the fray to simply cash in on the cash.

Even still, it would likely result in more independents running for office, which isn’t a bad thing. It would level the playing field somewhat for those who want to run but simply can’t compete with the ‘war chests’ of both the NDP and the Liberals.

In a democracy, raising cash shouldn’t be the primary talent of our elected officials.