So it turns out our plucky rep from Brandon East is one of the folks causing so much trouble behind party lines at NDP central. But it’s for a good reason in our view.
A party source told our sister paper, the Winnipeg Free Press, that Premier Greg Selinger and MLAs James Allum (Fort Garry-Riverview), Erna Braun (Rossmere) and Drew Caldwell (Brandon East) were among 15 members of the NDP’s inner circle who supported a motion not to apply for a per-vote funding, or Vote Tax as it’s also known.
That move was directly counter to a party directive that called on the NDP to accept the controversial per-vote funding. The failure of the executive to listen to the rank-and-file members has sparked heated rumblings of discontent deep within the party’s core.
The spat, reported the Free Press, erupted at the NDP’s annual general meeting over the party executive’s decision to refuse a $1.25-per-vote subsidy guaranteed to registered political parties by law. For the NDP, reports the Free Press, the subsidy works out to be about $250,000 per year or nearly $1 million between elections.
The Opposition Progressive Conservatives don’t take the per-vote subsidy, which was introduced four years ago under the Election Finances Act
So what’s wrong with a per-vote subsidy? The Canadian Taxpayers Federation argues it’s taxing people when they vote.
“If the NDP government thinks that giving more money to political parties is a priority, they need to give their heads a shake,” Colin Craig, Manitoba director for the CTF, has said in the past. “Politicians should be forced to look voters square in the eye and ask for voluntary donations. Political parties are not welfare cases and should not be entitled to more tax dollars at a time when taxes are too high already.”
And we agree.
In 2000, the NDP government brought in a bill that banned corporate and union donations. It was thought it would have the greatest negative impact on the Tories.
But it backfired. The CTF notes that although the NDP out-fundraised the Conservatives during the first five years after the new legislation was passed, according to Elections Manitoba the Conservatives eventually started raising more money than the NDP.
Then, in 2009, came the per-vote subsidy — the Vote Tax.
Party members passed motions at the 2011 and 2012 AGMs to accept the subsidy.
Despite this, the executive decided to take a pass. This caused several high-profile members to rebuke the executive for disregarding the motions. It also convinced party president Lorraine Sigurdson to quit.
It also angered some key supporters of the NDP, such as the Manitoba Federation of Labour and United Food and Commercial Workers.
Susan Hart-Kulbaba, representing the UFCW, expressed her displeasure rather bluntly:
“I have to tell you I’m exceedingly pissed off about it,” Hart-Kulbaba, a former MFL president, told delegates at last weekend’s NDP convention in Winnipeg. “We don’t come here to sit here and make policy and not have it followed.”
Last month, the government introduced legislation to scrap the current political party funding model and replace it with one to be devised by an independent commissioner. The bill is expected to pass before the legislature rises June 14.
We believe the general public will see past the smoke and mirrors of the appointment of a commissioner to dish out the public subsidy. It’s really just an awkward way of putting lipstick on the Vote Tax pig.
The public already rebates elections expenses to parties and candidates who pass a minimum threshold of support.
Political parties need to convince people to vote for them and support them financially.
They don’t need welfare from the public purse.
So we have to congratulate Brandon rep Caldwell for showing he’s not beholden to the unions and for displaying a strong sense of ethics — a rare trait in politics these days.
And he’s also showing his political savvy, as the NDP would be skewered by the opposition if it took the per-vote subsidy.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 7, 2012