Federal subsidy contributed to Bloc Quebecois demise

Blog, Politics, Marco Navarro-Genie

Some used to complain that the federal subsidies to political parties (initiated under the Chretien regime) were artificially supporting the Bloc Quebecois.

By granting parties revenue from the public purse, the federal state kept the Bloc alive beyond its natural life, the argument went. In a well-received Frontier Centre backgrounder in October 2008 Mark Milke made the case in the language of unintended consequences:

Whether one supports of opposes the use of tax dollars to fund political parties, an unintended consequence of public financing for political parties is that the Bloc Quebecois’ finances were greatly helped out by such schemes.

I remain convinced that Milke was right then, but there is room to believe that unintended consequences have in turn further unintended consequences.

Once a happier Duceppe

This is the view that Eric Duhaime advances in this piece entitled “Fermez la shop,” suggesting that the BQ is done.  Duhaime argues that Bloc dependency on federal funding created the conditions of complaisance in which the party lived of lately.   Only 19% of the Bloc’s finances came from funds raised from party members and militants.  The rest, 81% came from the feds.

The BQ was not obligated to work very hard to raise funds from the Quebecois public, thus growing distant and disconnected from it.  That same distance would not have alerted them of the growing gap, and they went into this most recent election with a business-as-usual attitude.  Money collections and donations would have acted as a political canary to the party, but not so when the party grew so substantively dependent on Ottawa, and irony that did not escape Duhaime.

In time, the Bloc became by a big difference the party most dependent on federal money. By way of comparison, public finances fed into 53% of the NDP’s revenue, 52% for the LPC and 37% for the CPC.

The sovereignists dependency on federal money may well be a significant factor in their recent electoral collapse.