By Henry McRandall
The majority election victory on May 2 of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen may put an end to seven years of sometimes-rancorous minority government but it also puts Canada’s beleaguered democracy in even more peril.
One of the few positive things achieved by the Canadian Parliament over that time period was a real democratization of Canada’s election laws and, even more importantly, its electoral financing laws.
While the United States has moved toward even greater control of both of its two national political parties by the corporations and the billionaires and mega-millionairwes who control those corporations, Canada has been fortunate enough in recent years to inch ever so slowly toward a more democratic system of financing political parties.
Today, it is not possible for any candidate to get elected to any significant public office in the U.S. unless he or she is either a billionaire or mega-millionaire in their own right or has the blessing of the corporations that finance successful campaigns.
In recent years, it was becoming slowly less so in Canada as political parties were increasingly financed out of general tax revenues.
It meant a party or candidate might possibly succeed without the blessing of a single capitalist corporation. It meant every voter had a slightly more equal say in the selection of governments. And it tended to close the gap between rich and poor at least in one tiny sphere.
All that is now threatened by the election of a Conservative majority. In fact, the Tories have already promised to end the government subsidies for political parties that was making the playing field a little more level.
It was that government subsidy for political parties – passed by a minority Parliament – that allowed the social democratic NDP (New Democratic Party) to make its historic breakthrough last week, making it – going forward – the obvious alternative to the present right-wing catastrophe in Ottawa.
While those subsidies tended to level the playing field – by limiting the amount of money an individual or a corporation could donate to a party or candidate and providing a public subsidy equal to a party’s or candidate’s level of public support –, it failed to wean the right-wing Conservatives and the centrist Liberals off the corporate teet or out of the corporate pocket.
Finally, thanks to those public subsidies, there now exists a viable national political party that is not beholden first and foremost to the corporate capitalist agenda. Finally, thanks to those public subsidies, there exists in Canada the dim hope of someday electing a federal government whose primary commitment will be to the needs of the masses – the poor, the working class and the middle class – rather than the porcine greed of the top one percent of income-earners.
But Harper has vowed to end the party subsidies that created a more level playing field among all voters – whether rich or poor – and that is one promise you can bet your bottom dollar he will keep.
After all, how else to keep all the money with the top one percent if not by keeping all the political power with the top one percent?
And that’s what Harper’s tawdry Tories are determined to do.
Harper win imperils Canadian democracy
By Henry McRandall