Bloc’s the Big Winner in Election Financing

Media Appearances, Role of Government, Frontier Centre

In a bit of political perversity, it turns out Canadians are bending over backwards to provide financial sustenance to the Bloc Quebecois.

A new study by the Calgary-based Frontier Centre for Public Policy reveals, of all Canada’s federal parties, the Bloc benefits most substantially from campaign finance reform introduced five years ago by the Chretien government.

Declares the Frontier Centre news release: “Without federal financing, the separatist party likely would have been unable to mount a serious campaign in the 2008 election.”

The Chretien reforms banned corporate and union donations in order to eliminate the possibility of undue influence.

The reforms also limited individual donations to $5,000 per person. The Harper Conservatives subsequently lowered that amount to $1,100.

The 2003 reforms also set up a new system of direct taxpayer-funded allowances whereby parties receive quarterly payments based on the number of votes gleaned in the previous election. Each vote yields nearly $2.

The Alberta study shows that the Bloc has become more heavily reliant on these allowances than any other party, including the Greens.

The ratio of the taxpayer allowance to money from Bloc fundraising is 5.6 to 1.

Contrast that to a 1.3 to 1 ratio for Conservatives and a 1.5 to 1 ratio for the New Democrats, the two parties that are least dependent on the taxpayer subsidies.

Incredibly, the Bloc in the first six months of this year had a scant 1,070 individuals offer donations. Even the tiny Green party had 7,915 donors during that same time period.

With its meagre donor base, the Bloc raised a paltry $73,704 while scooping $1.5 million in public financing.

It is also noteworthy, says study author Mark Milke, that the Bloc’s donor base has been seriously shrinking since 2004 when it had 8,775 donors. By 2007, that had fallen to half and it since has shrunk further.

“Simply put, the Bloc’s fortunes in the recent election were rescued by public financing,” says Milke, a political science lecturer at the University of Calgary.

It is true that the Bloc’s donor base is limited to Quebec, with just 23 per cent of the country’s population.

But that would suggest the Bloc would be able to raise 23 per cent of what, say, the Liberals raise, drawing from a donor pool coast to coast.

In fact, the Bloc manages to raise only 10 per cent of the amount raised by Liberals, who are having their own problems raising cash.

How ironic, that the party that would seek to break up Canada has become so reliant on the national teat.

This should annoy the heck out of Canadians. The truth is that the Bloc is an unhealthy blight in the federal Parliament, not offering itself as a viable alternative to the governing party, and working only for the benefit of a single province — without a care for the welfare of the federation as a whole.

Imagine if every province had a Bloc party. It would negate the usefulness of the federal Parliament entirely. Each province would have a parliamentary “gimme, gimme” team seeking only to best the next province.

The Bloc initially installed itself as a temporary political force, launched by Lucien Bouchard in 1990. In the 2006 election, the party won 51 seats, reduced in last week’s election to 50. It shows no sign of folding its tent.

By taking so many seats out of play for the national parties, the Bloc has made achieving a majority government in a federal election nearly impossible. This has led to more minority governments which has led to more elections and to more often-unhealthy politicking in Ottawa.

The defence Bloc supporters will offer in the face of the Frontier Centre‘s report will be that the Bloc is a Quebec party, backed by that province’s taxpayers who are also federal taxpayers. That is, they, too, indirectly support the Bloc’s existence. And Quebecers help to finance all federal parties.

But that won’t assuage the broader group of taxpayers who have absolutely no incentive to appreciate the Bloc’s work in Ottawa.

It rankles further to think that Canadian taxpayers also are on the hook for the fat MP pensions Bloc MPs receive when they retire from politics.

Canadians truly are a tolerant lot.