MB Conservative leader Brian Pallister at a press conference in Winnipeg on Sept. 17, 2012.
Credits: Chris Procaylo/Winnipeg Sun
WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger's government describes the NDP plan to acquire more public money for political parties as fair funding, though their Tory opponents charge that the "lazy" move is a cash grab.
While the governing New Democrats have a self-appointed commissioner look for a way to allocate public dollars to themselves and other provincial parties, Conservative Leader Brian Pallister is slamming what he calls the "vote tax" even before it's put into place.
"It's easy money for a lazy political party," Pallister said on Thursday, accusing Selinger's administration of looking to taxpayers to top up its coffers due to shortfalls in NDP fundraising.
"This is a coercive way to tap taxpayers for something that a political party with any self-respect should do on its own."
Pallister added the NDP's use of recently appointed commissioner Bill Neville and new legislation on party funding is another Manitoba government effort to re-establish a "vote tax" that the province, under then-premier Gary Doer, had pitched in 2008. That plan was to give each party $1.25 for every vote that they had garnered in the previous general election.
However, a refusal by the Tories to accept that funding prompted the NDP to turn the cash away as well.
Pallister said the New Democrats are looking for "Vote Tax 2.0" to raid the public purse. And though Neville isn't slated to recommend a formula for the "allowance" for three months, the Tory leader added that "we know the ideas they've been floating, and ... this could well mean a million bucks in the coffers of the NDP before the next election."
But NDP government house leader Jennifer Howard suggested Neville's examination of "how public funding should play a role" in parties is an extension of the provincial government's move more than a decade ago to ban political donations from corporations and unions, for the sake of fairness.
"The people who give you $10 should not have less power than the people who give you $10,000," Howard said.
"Providing for some public support for political parties means we can have a level playing field and diverse points of view, and so nobody with money is more of an influence than people who don't have money."
Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation blasted Howard's argument, saying the "excuses for this new subsidy program don't hold water" following the NDP's fourth consecutive majority election victory last year.
"All parties ran campaigns without having to rely on this funding," said Craig. "It boils down to the NDP having some pretty lazy people fundraising. It needs to start cracking the whip on those people to get more donations, because they're the only ones who keep calling for this thing."