Thursday, November 27, 2008

Harper to Opposition: Go Fund Yourselves!

Nation, word today that the Harper government may, in an effort to at least APPEAR to be taking the economic slow-down seriously, announce their intention to cut off public funding for political parties.

Other, wiser bloggers have already hit on this issue, so I won't beat it to death. I will, however, add my voice to the chorus of "good politics, horrible policy".

Of COURSE the Tories are more than happy to take this step - they've got enough money in the bank to run another election TOMORROW, while the other parties are barely able to service their debts. And if the opposition parties cry fowl, that's a campaign ad waiting to be aired:
"While you were staying up at night trying to figure out how to stretch your paycheque, Jack Layton was in Ottawa, arguing it should go to him and his NDP buddies..."

So, politically, this is a master stroke.

Revocation of public funding for political parties, though, is a dangerous and slippery slope.

And, let's keep in mind, I've repeatedly gone on the record as being philosophically opposed to then entire party system, as a whole. I know, it's the system we've got, and you have to work within it, I get that... but still, I'm no great lover of the party system. This isn't about me sticking up for them.

This act, though, sets a dangerous precedent. What if, 5 years from now, the government still hasn't fallen? None of the opposition parties have forced Harper to go back to the polls, and (unthinkably) the Governor General has refused any requests by Harper to dissolve Parliament. Can the Tories look at the books, then turn around and declare that, because we're in full-on recession and the government has no money, that we're not going to HAVE an election? It's $300 Million that should be going to social programs, and Canadians seem pretty happy with the government, so we're not going to waste the money?

We'd be up in arms over such a pronouncement, and rightly so. We should be up in arms over this one, too. Democracy is not a luxury - it's a right, just like education and health-care in this country, and needs to be funded as such.

After all, we're promised "peace, order, and good government" in our constitution... that last one requires debate and an opposition that can hold the government of the day to account. And even if you voted for the government - you've got to believe in holding them to account, right? I like Big Macs, but I feel a lot better knowing there are health inspectors checking the place for rat droppings before I go in to chow down, and I don't mind paying to make sure that's the case.

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