Ontario PC leader Doug Ford says he would end subsidies to parties, calls it ‘political welfare’

A Liberal Party official said Ontario’s financing rules are designed to keep well-funded interests from buying influence and dismissed Ford’s idea as ‘Trump-like bluster’

Tom Blackwell
Tom Blackwell

Ontario’s Progressive leader says he would end the millions of dollars in per-vote subsidies the government pays to parties like his, calling it “political welfare” and bad for democracy.

Doug Ford’s promise, made as the province prepares for an election June 7, adds to a vigorous debate about how to fund political campaigns — and reduce the influence that donors can have on parties.

While the former Conservative government phased out subsidies federally in 2015, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne introduced them to the province in 2016, while also banning union and corporate donations.

The rationale is that government grants lessen politicians’ dependence on donors, and the chance they’ll bend to the will of those supporters. But Ford suggested they are a waste of resources.

“I do not believe the government should be taking money from hard-working taxpayers and giving it to political parties,” he wrote on Facebook during the PC leadership campaign in February. “Corporate welfare is wrong, and political party welfare is equally wrong; I will put an end to both.”

A spokesman for Ford said Thursday he remains committed to eliminating the subsidy. “Political parties need to appeal to grassroots supporters — they should not receive taxpayer-funded welfare,” said a spokeswoman.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has also blasted the program, saying the money could be better spent on government programs.

But Liberal Party executive director David Clarke dismissed the idea as “Trump-like bluster.” The province’s financing rules are designed to keep well-funded interests from buying influence, he said.

“If Ford were to cut the subsidy, how would he finance a campaign?” asked Clarke. “Through corporate donations from the companies who are getting his tax breaks? Or, would politics only be open to the wealthy — people just like him?”

Under current law, in fact, no company can make political donations.

The Democracy Watch organization was also critical of Ford’s proposal, arguing it would “rig” the political system in favour of politicians with wealthy supporters.

The subsidies are the most democratic part of Ontario’s system, allocating funding based on the parties’ ballot-box backing, said Duff Conacher, the group’s head.

full story at http://nationalpost.com/news/politics/ontario-conservative-leader-ford-says-he-would-end-subsidies-to-parties-calling-it-political-welfare

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