Taxpayer money financing political parties

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I am following up on the question from my hon. colleague from Burnaby South to my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

The claim that he has just made that his party does not support taxpayer money going to political parties flies in the face of the reality that the taxpayers of this country, like it or not, and I think many of them would not like it, have to pay for the horrible attack ads that are on our televisions.

The per-vote subsidy allowed a voter to say, “I’d like a token amount, less than $2 a year, to go to this party that I am voting for. They’re the party of my choice.” However, with respect to the generous taxpayer support, if they donate $400 to a political party, it costs them $100. I would love my church to get that kind of rebate on the donations made for charitable purposes. However, even more amazing is the amount spent in campaign, so the more that is spent on terrible attack ads on our television sets, the more money that party gets back. Specifically, Stephen Harper changed the rules so that by having a longer writ period, Conservatives got even more money back.

I know this is a place where everybody lives in glass houses. However, let us not forget that the Conservative Party has done a lot of fundraising that was somewhat sketchy in the past. The Conservative Party has been taking the laws and twisting them to get more money back from taxpayers, not less.

Garnett Genuis – Member for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan

Mr. Speaker, in this case, I think my house is made of bricks.

The member spoke about other mechanisms by which political parties get money. Let us be very clear, with the removal of the direct subsidy to political parties, the mechanisms that exist are, first, when a contribution is made to political parties, there is a deduction, and second, there is also a rebate for money spent during the writ period.

If memory serves, there was actually a Conservative private member’s bill in this Parliament that sought to equalize the deductions for charities with political parties. I think the member has a good point that there is some unfairness in the process.

An hon. member: No, that was my bill. It was an NDP bill.

Mr. Garnett Genuis: An NDP member may have had this in a previous Parliament, but my memory suggests that it was this Parliament. The member for Provencher had a private member’s bill in this Parliament. If the member for Windsor West would like to endorse this Conservative idea, then that is great.

In terms of what the member said about attack ads, I just want to be clear that of course political parties do run attack ads. I do not know if the Green Party ever has, but there are also not-for-profit organizations that run ads critical of political parties. Not-for-profits, as well as political parties, engage in different kinds of political speech.

I do not think we should get into micromanaging deductions that different organizations get just because of the level of criticism that they levy. However, a mechanism that has a deduction for contributing to a not-for-profit organization, a charity, or a political party is very different than a direct taxpayer subsidy. A deduction simply says that if I am giving money to an organization, I should get some of that back because it is a not-for-profit. That is different from a direct subsidy to that organization.