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Editorial cartoon by Anthony Jenkins (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Editorial cartoon by Anthony Jenkins (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

Per-vote Subsidy

First he routed Liberals <br/>- and now Harper hopes <br/>to bankrupt them Add to ...

Stephen Harper is expected to move quickly to kill the per-vote taxpayer subsidies to political parties in an effort to kill the Liberal Party of Canada, according to a former colleague of the Prime Minister.

"Ever since his days at the [National Citizens Coalition] Stephen talked about eliminating the Liberals as a political force in Canada," former NCC executive Gerry Nicholls said. "This was both for personal and tactical reasons. He didn't like Liberals - he always viewed them as biased against Alberta."

In addition, Mr. Nicholls told The Globe the Prime Minister, who had worked at the NCC between his stints in the House of Commons, also believed a two-party system "where it was the socialist NDP vs. free market Conservative, would be an advantage for the Tories."

It appears as if his dreams are about to come true. The Liberals are down to just 34 seats and the infighting has begun; the Bloc Québécois is pretty much gone; and the NDP is the Official Opposition.

The Prime Minister has made no secret of his plans to get rid of the $2 per vote subsidy. During the campaign, he blamed frequency of elections on the taxpayer subsidy, which allows political parties to get "enormous cheques" whether "they raise any money or not."

"The war chests are always full for another campaign," he said on the hustings. "You lose one; immediately in come the cheques and you are ready for another one even if you didn't raise a dime."

Indeed, the separatist Bloc, although it never ran a national campaign, received more than $2.8-million every year after the 2008 election. Even though it won only four seats in the May 2 campaign, it garnered nearly 900,000 votes -and so will receive $1.8-million in subsidies.

Mr. Nicholls, who has written multiple articles on the subject, agrees with the Prime Minister about eliminating the subsidy as long as it for the right reasons. The taxpayer-funded top up, he said, "is a waste of tax dollars and wrong on principle - Canadians should not be forced to subsidize political parties."

However Mr. Nicholls would prefer if the government also scrapped the contribution limit. Since the subsidy was introduced in 2004, there have been limits on how much individual Canadians can donate. The cap currently sits at $1,200 per person, per year.

"If he scrapped the contribution limit along with the subsidy, the Liberals and other opposition parties would at least have a fighting chance. They could make up for the lost subsidy through aggressive fundraising," he said.

More than that, Mr. Nicholls believes that keeping the contribution limit will make it "nearly impossible" for new parties to form.

"That's bad for democracy," he said. "It could also open the door for some future government to impose contribution limits on advocacy organizations, like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation."

Still, his concern "centres on the PM's motivation", he said. "I fear he isn't approaching the question based on what's right or what's fair or in the name of conservative principle."

What Ruth Ellen Brosseau brings to the House

After much negative publicity, skepticism and raised eyebrows over Vegas-vacationing New Democrat Ruth Ellen Brosseau, public opinion may be changing.

The pile-on over the young woman's ability to serve in the Commons has turned off some Canadians - especially women - and there are many now who are rooting for her to succeed in a big way in the Commons.

Anecdotally, there are many women who believe that the 27-year-old former pub server and single mother's presence in the Commons is refreshing. Finally there will be more than middle-aged blue-suited professionally-trained men in the House. With the addition of Ms. Brosseau, the Commons will take a small step toward reflecting real life.

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