Thursday, May 05, 2011

Scrap the per vote subsidy

The loss of the per vote subsidy will likely force an important and long needed shift in the organization of the Liberal party. The per vote subsidy allows the central office to spend money in the name of the voters without the need to ask for their input. The subsidy in effect insulates the party leadership from interacting with the grassroots.

Now if the head office hopes to pay the electricity bill, it will have to wholly engage the membership. The party will become intimately familiar with the aspirations of the membership or die.

Its anecdotal evidence for sure but members of my family who live in four different regions of the country and have a long history of donating bucks to the party receive more cold calls from the Conservatives than calls from the Liberals. The Conservatives have taken every opportunity to reach out: radio, television, leaflets in the mail, cold calls. But a simple call from the Liberals to all its past donors? Not so much.


WesternGrit said...

It's funny, but our group was just discussing the need for REAL outreach and marketing...

Koby said...

The money the Liberals gain from the per vote subsidy does not come close to giving the party brass a free hand. There are no spending limits outside of elections. That means that the Conservatives have been able to run non stop ads against the Liberals and the Liberals have not been able to respond in kind. They simply did not have the money.

Liberals should be defending the per vote subsidy. It is good public policy.

There are two reasons defending the per vote subsidy. The first is obvious. Making the political parties more beholden to those with money is a bad idea. However the Conservatives have partially neutralized this argument by limiting the amount any individual can contribute and by forbidding corporations and unions from making contributions. The second is less obvious and needs to be repeatedly explained to the public and to pundits alike. The more emphasis placed on fundraising, the less time politicians have to spend dealing with issues and serving the community. The extreme case is what is happening in the US. Bill Clinton lamented that an ever increasing amount of time was occupied by fundraising and by the end of second term it occupied most of his time and the time of most senators. That was more than 10 years ago. Things are 100 times worse now. We want our politicians believing that politically it is more advantageous for them to spend time representing their ridings and hearing the concerns of their constituents than it is giving speeches at series of $100 dollar a plate fundraising dinners.

We also want to see people be nominated by virtue of what talents they have and not by virtue of what kind of wealthy friends are in their Rolodex.

ridenrain said...

Making them dependant on their supporters also makes them accountable to their supporters. A party needs to be more than just a brand. It need people who all share a comon vision or purpose.

Anonymous said...

What the Libs think about the voter subsidy is irrelevant.

It is stunning however to read here that the arguements as to whether the subsidy should go or stay is primarily decided on what is best for the Lib Party.

You guys don't get it.

Aaron said...

Umm ridenrain it seems so rare but I am happy to say it: I completely agree with you.

@Koby fundraising is hearing the concerns of the party. In order to pitch for money, you have to know what will appeal to people. In asking for money you will have to engage in discussions about what the voters want.

The Conservatives are presently enjoying the fruits of their long-term efforts to engage their membership and alot of that outreach has involved fundraising.

If you can get someone to donate their hard earned money, they are more likely to vote for you, more likely to recommend voting for you to their friends and more likely to volunteer. Fundraising is intimately related to efforts at rebuilding the base of the party.

Aaron said...

@Anon Thanks for pointing out how my post could be misunderstood by someone with an antagonistic POV. It will help me craft a clearer message next time.

You are very right that the per vote subsidy will be scrapped.

But do you agree or disagree with the obervation: "The loss of the per vote subsidy will likely force an important and long needed shift in the organization of the Liberal party." Because that is the point I am trying to make.

Aaron said...

@WesternGrit I think alot of Liberals are talking about this now. What are your ideas?

Koby said...

Aaron: "fundraising is hearing the concerns of the party. In order to pitch for money, you have to know what will appeal to people. In asking for money you will have to engage in discussions about what the voters want."

Got it. That still does not change the fact that the Liberals already had plenty of reasons for doing just. You seem to think that their failure to match the Conservatives fundrising is a lack of will. I put it down to a lack of talent and a lack of vision.

All that being said, regardless of what is good for Liberals the per vote subsidy should stay. It good public policy.

Oh and annoymous, it rather rich of you to imply on the one hand that I was only thinking what is good for the Liberal party when I said I think it is good public policy and on the other hand ignore why it is the Conservatives are scrapping it.

The Conservatives want to eliminate the political subsidy and so force political parties to raise their "own money". As usual, Harper is only thinking of what political advantage could be gained and not at all about what is good for the country. He is also being dishonest. Canada has long subsidized political parties by making political contributions tax deductible and the amount of money being subsidized by the Canadian tax payer is equal to the amount given out to the political party as part of the per vote subsidy. If we are going to eliminate a subsidy, it should be this one.

Conservatives base all of their decisions on what they think is good for Conservative party. For Harper what is good for country is irrelevant.