Edmonton - Friday, February 14, 2003 - by: Ron Thornton

long path

Democracy has traveled a long path, from the biblical rules of basic human behavior handed down by the Ten Commandments, to the "rule of the people" practiced in ancient Athens, to England's great charter, the Magna Carta, that produced the British Parliament. John Locke wrote of a social contract calling for the protection of our natural rights of life, liberty, and ownership of property, while Thomas Jefferson incorporated such ideals within the United States' Declaration of Independence that stated that "all men are created equal." In time, some nations actually gave the vote to all men, to all women, to all free citizens of age within their borders.



should be

Of course, here in Canada even some of those exiled from society through imprisonment get a chance to cast a vote. If that isn't enough, now Prime Minister Jean Chretien further dreams of wanting to "make Canada a model for democracy." It is not as if our beleaguered Prime Minister is about to turn our nation into some kind of contemporary version of ancient Greece, where we all get an opportunity to sit around in our togas debating the great issues of our time. Rather, he would like to limit the extent that such entity's as big business, big labour, and other such special interest organizations, may have on the election process. This should come as welcome news, but it doesn't take much reflection on the scheme to see that it is anything but a progressive step toward a more democratic, free society.



of power

The well-heeled among us, under the proposal, would be able to continue to buy influence through a $10,000 ceiling on yearly private donations. If I'm not mistaken, I don't believe a vast majority of us regular Joes and Joans have that kind of cash to win over the hearts and minds of our nation's decision makers. Rather than an outright ban on business contributions, Chretien proposes a $1000 annual limit. Of course, in doing so, the Chretien plan also limits the ability such organizations can punish a non-compliant party or politician by withholding their big bucks or transferring those contributions to the coffers of one more willing to play ball. This might, for example, prevent a former cabinet minister from gathering the war chest and power that might force a Prime Minister to either announce his retirement date or face the music of a leadership vote. To put it simply, it actually consolidates even more so the power of the Prime Minister to do whatever he damn well pleases while at the same time preventing any outside challenges or threats to his position. This might be the model of some system of government, but it sure in hell isn't democracy.



taxes will
go to those
in power

If the cash isn't coming in from organizations to fund the Liberals, who get less than 40% of their monies from individuals, then who will pay the tab to keep them afloat? Well, according to the Prime Minister, you will pay the freight through your tax dollars to the tune of an additional $40-million of additional public financing. Honest Jean was quick to point out that this charitable contribution to line the pockets of our nation's established political parties would cost each and every Canadian only an additional loonie and change. "This is a very small price to pay for helping to improve our democracy," claims Chretien, but the price we actually will pay will be a further erosion of democratic principles. With the payout to each party hinging on the national vote tally a party picks up in the previous federal election, it immediately presumes that we wish to reward the bulk of the prize to those already in power and financially cripple those who wish to mount a challenge to the status quo. Canadian electoral history shows that sometimes the populace desires to punish, not reward, those in power, and this scheme fails to reflect that.




Now let's take a look at how such a system might really work if one was truly serious about moving toward a more democratic funding system. If democracy is about people, then why not restrict contributions to political parties to just individuals? While those who make up various organizations might have a vote; the corporations, unions, professional organizations, and special interest groups they represent or that they are a part of; most certainly do not.




Rather than dip into our pockets to extract a 'political party tax', why not empower the decisions of individuals to determine who gets their hard-earned funds? Limit those individual donations to $500, leveling the playing field to include a majority of Canadians and not just the elite. Rather than costing taxpayers more in political handouts we should end the practice of refunding monies back to the parties while at the same time making those individual donations 100% tax deductible. Canadians hope their taxes will be put to work for them, not politicians, and to reward most Canadians for participating in the democratic process seems a step in the right direction. Paying welfare payments to politicos in any form is not; a practice that should be repugnant to all of us who have to work and survive in the real world.



would work

No doubt there are those who will scream that there are not enough individuals out there who can cough up the cash to provide the funds necessary for political parties to operate. That is absolute nonsense. Based on figures from Elections Canada, all our federal political parties combined suck up between $40-$60 million annually, depending on whether or not it is an election year. Statistics Canada figures show that in 1995 Canadian men in the twenty-five highest paid occupational categories averaged an income of $86,139. These 285,000, lawyers, physicians, engineers, administrators, and senior managers in various fields had a combined income of $24.5-billion. Do you think they could each afford to shell out $500 per year? Do you think that they, combined with the more than 80,000 women in those same occupational categories who average $59,000 a year stipends, along with the millions of us regular schmucks who make up the bulk of the population, might be able to part with the necessary funds to keep these political operatives out of the poor house? If the answer is no, it is not because we could not, but that we found them so wanting that we would not.




It's been said that
"a proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven."
I believe this is a good proof that this latest Liberal "democratic" scheme is yet another bad goof.






Ron Thornton

  Number of Earners Who Worked Full Year, Full Time in 1995 in the 25 Highest Paying and 25 Lowest Paying Occupations and Their Average Earnings by Sex, for Canada, 1995 (20% Sample Data ) <http://www.statcan.ca/english/census96/may12/t2.htm>
  Stats Canada web site and the 96 census data http://www.statcan.ca/english/census96/may12/t2.htm



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