In May, the citizens of BC voted to end corporate and union donations, but the most significant part of the legislation (Bill 3) that NDP and Greens have tabled to fulfill this mandate is the goodies for BC’s big political parties, paid for out of the pockets of hard-working taxpayers. Under the cover of making our electoral system more honest by banning big money, Bill 3 is a calculated political move by the incumbent players to entrench a two (maybe three) party system, and shut minor players out of the game. The BC Libertarian Party strongly opposes Bill 3, and argues that the status quo would be much better for BC’s minor parties, and the health of our democracy.
The goodies in question are the per-vote subsidy and the reimbursement of campaign expenses, which will cost British Columbians tens of millions of dollars. And the first thing to note when talking about funding political parties in this way is that extracts money from people for a purpose they wouldn’t consent to. It doesn’t matter who you voted for, or even if you consciously abstain from voting, the government will (by force if necessary) take a share of what you earn and spend and give it to a bunch of politicians—the winners of whom earn more than you do sitting in the legislature an average of 57 days a year. Sure, you may consider our current system to be a bit of a political wild west, but surely this voluntary system is better than one where everyone is compelled to pay for the campaigns of candidates they would never willingly support.
Truth be told, our current system isn’t entirely voluntary or self-funded. Political parties already get a huge tax advantage, one not enjoyed even by charities, that of tax credits for political contributions. Those who haven’t donated to a political party may not realize that unlike donating to a charity, the amount you give doesn’t just reduce your taxable income, it actually reduces the amount of income tax you owe. In BC, on the first $100 that you give to a political party or candidate, you get a 75% tax credit. So if you earn enough to pay income tax, and you donate $10 to your favourite candidate, you’re only out of pocket $2.50 at the end of the year. Now, we libertarians oppose the use of the tax system to provide benefits to special interest groups, but as we are so heavily taxed overall, it is nice to see citizens able to catch a break once in a while. Reducing the taxes of political donors as way to help political parties out isn’t right, but it’s small potatoes compared to forcing them to pay for John Horgan’s tour bus, or Andrew Weaver’s…umm…electric bicycle?
The BC Libertarian Party is standing with BC’s other minor parties to oppose this betrayal of voters’ wishes, this terrible use of government revenue, this Machiavellian tilting of the playing field in favour of the incumbents. This isn’t just about sour grapes for us little guys. It’s about ensuring BC’s electoral system has the flexibility it needs to adapt to changing times and changing political preferences among its citizens. To that end, independents and small parties deserve a fair shot.