Discussing campaign finance and TV debate reform

A Winnipeg Free Press article discusses the race in Saanich--Gulf Islands. Candidates in this district include incumbent Hon. Gary Lunn who was previously Minister of Natural Resources, and leader of the Green Party Elizabeth May.

Although May is an opponent of nuclear power, Linda Keen said the Green leader's fair-minded approach makes her a preferable alternative to Gary Lunn, Keen's former boss and May's Conservative opponent in the Vancouver Island riding of Saanich-Gulf Island

While unrelated to technology law or nuclear power, I want to discuss and get feedback from this community on a few questions: Should Ms. May should be included in the television debates? What criteria we should use? What are your thoughts on campaign finance reform?

Of course I am going to offer my thoughts to start us off.

I don't think this should be a decision made by the private broadcasters (which I include CBC television as being -- not much public about them, unlike TV Ontario). I believe that a condition of receiving a broadcast license in this country should be a minimum level of participation in the electoral process. The decision should be made by an arms length body, with Elections Canada being an obvious choice.

I don't believe having seats in the previous parliament, or making "exciting television", should be deciding criteria.

This isn't a debate between candidates running against each other in a district, and there is no riding where any two of these people are running against each other. This is about representatives of the parties, not the people. Given this I believe there is an obvious cut-off, which is the cut-off we use for public subsidies of parties.

An Elections Canada information sheet for Annual Allowances for Political Parties includes:

A registered party that obtains at least 2% of all valid votes cast at a general election or at least 5% of the valid votes cast in the electoral districts in which it ran a candidate in a general election is eligible for an annual allowance. (s. 435.01(1) Canada Elections Act)

We could have a legitimate debate about whether we only include the nation-wide 2% number, or both numbers which allows regional parties like the Bloc to have an easier time qualifying. I happen to believe the criteria for the annual allowance is sufficient, and don't believe it is worth our time to open that can of worms.

This might theoretically mean more people in the debates over the years. We don't elect a President in Canada, and we should be hearing from a representative of all the parties that receive public financing. It not only allows us more information to make our voting choices, but it also provides a good mechanism to ensure accountability of those receiving public money.

The 5 parties that currently receive an annual allowance are the 4 parties who had seats in the previous parliament plus the Green Party. This isn't about playing favourites for Ms. May or the Green Party, but recognizing that they are in a very unique situation in Canadian politics of having comparable number of votes to the Bloc and yet do not have a seat.

What do other people think? There are a few issues to discuss based on the above that go beyond the criteria for the television debates. While I am a strong supporter of public financing and campaign finance reform (getting rid of union and corporate donations), not everyone agrees.

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First, and unrelated to your

First, and unrelated to your main topic, I am curious about the difference between the CBC as a public broadcaster and TVO. You obviously have an opinion here, and more knowledge than I.

Your proposed criteria of using the annual allowance is a good one, though it may well become moot if the Cons get their way and dispense with this funding. You also say "we should be hearing from a representative of all the parties that receive public financing.", but you do not acknowledge that this goes well beyond the annual allowance and actually includes all parties registered with Elections Canada because all are entitled to public financing though the 75% income tax deduction for donations. I find it extremely disingenuous, even hypocritical, when Harper says "Taxpayers shouldn’t have to support political parties that they don’t support.", but still supports this tax deduction.

Sadly I expect Harper's words will resonate with a lot of people and a great many will not see a tax deduction for themselves as being the same as public financing. Getting rid of the per vote subsidy will be a win for capitalism, and concurrently a loss for democracy.

I strongly agree with both Elections Canada being in charge of the debate, and participation by the broadcasters being a requirement for licensing.

Public/private broadcasting, party allowances.

I look at the type of programming on CBC radio (English and French), TVO television and what TVO is doing for podcasting, and I see the differences between that and the private broadcasters. I believe this is tax money well spent on programming of public value that we would not otherwise receive from the private broadcasters.

When I look at CBC television, however, I don't see the difference. All I see is yet another broadcaster that isn't all that different from CTV or Global, other than not being vertically integrated with a traditional phone or cable company that owns both the television network and a BDU (Broadcast Distribution Undertaking -- Cable+Satellite TV distribution).

People seem to forget the purpose of the party allowances -- it was as a substitute for union and corporate donations. While we can wish we lived in a different world, political campaigns are expensive and the parties couldn't afford to run these campaigns out of what they get in donations plus the public money that comes in the form of tax breaks to those who donate.

I can't really agree that getting rid of these direct allowances would be a win for capitalism. It is simply writing the $1=1 vote capitalist philosophy in a mathematically equivalent way of saying 1 vote=$1 (the inflation adjusted number is currently $2.004CDN per valid vote).

I strongly believe in limits to how much a single citizen can donate to political campaigns, and I believe in only allowing citizens (not corporations or unions) to make political donations.

It is unfortunate, but suspect you are correct that not enough Canadians understand the trade-off that resulted in these allowances. Then again, if we are to believe some of the Conservative candidates we are also electing a President of Canada, and don't live in a country that uses a Westminster Parliamentary system.


The more we speak about these things within our communities, the more people will know about these issues. I really wish fellow techies were far less shy talking politics.

I don't think we need to descend into mindless partisanship. I say what I agree or disagree with regardless of what political banner happens to agree with me on that point.