PM Harper sets scene for battle over vote subsidy
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Conservatives on Friday reopened a debate that almost brought down their government in 2008, promising to scrap public subsidies for political parties if they win the May 2 federal election.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government would scrap the system -- something that gives an annual $2 subsidy to each major political party for every vote it got in the previous federal election -- if it won a majority in Parliament, a goal that has eluded it so far.
"Taxpayers shouldn't have to support political parties that they don't support," he said in New Brunswick. "(It's) this enormous check that keeps piling into political parties every month ... that means we're constantly having campaigns."
The May 2 election will be Canada's fourth in less than seven years.
Canada has strict rules on fund-raising, banning corporate and union donations and allowing individuals to give no more than C$1,100 a year. In the last quarter of 2010, the Conservatives raised C$5.2 million ($5.4 million) from the public, compared with C$2.2 million for the Liberals.
The Conservatives tried to scrap the vote subsidy in November 2008, a month after the last election. The three opposition parties united against that, and Harper only escaped defeat in the House of Commons by having Parliament suspended.
Eliminating the subsidy would help the Conservatives by financially crippling opposition parties, which are less efficient at raising money and rely on public cash.
The Conservatives received C$10.4 million in 2010 in subsidy cash while the main opposition Liberal Party picked up C$7.3 million. Continued...