New options for financing Canada's political parties

School of Public Policy paper by Prof. Tom Flanagan examines contentious party funding rules

CALGARY, Jan. 22 /CNW/ - Eliminating or replacing the allowances Canada's federal political parties now receive would involve several difficult policy choices, according to a new study released today by the U of C's School of Public Policy that examines federal political party financing regulations that have threatened to topple the minority Conservative government.

The policy paper by political scientist Tom Flanagan and PhD candidate David Coletto argues that eliminating but not replacing the quarterly allowances for political parties might cripple party organizations that have increasingly moved into what the report describes as "permanent campaign mode." Alternatively, parties could be permitted to obtain financing from other sources. However, the one replacement measure Prime Minister Stephen Harper has mentioned with favour - a taxpayer check-off system modelled on U.S. experience - has unknown application in the Canadian context and seems unlikely to replace more than 40% of the quarterly allowance revenue, and perhaps a good deal less.

On 27 November 2008, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered a fiscal update with a promise to repeal Elections Canada's allowances for federal political parties, which at the time amounted to $1.95 per year for each vote received in the previous election.

Opposition parties perceived it as an attempt to cut off their financial lifeline. The Liberals and NDP signed a coalition agreement and proposed a non-confidence vote that, with the support of the Bloc Québécois, would have defeated the Conservative minority. Prime Minister Harper quickly abandoned the proposal to eliminate the allowances.

If there is to be further reform, Flanagan and Coletto argue it would be best to depoliticize the issue by bringing forward a package of moderate measures that could command wide support.

An e-version of the paper is available at - click on "publications".

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SOURCE The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary

For further information: For further information: or to schedule interview with Prof. Tom Flanagan please contact: Morten Paulsen, University of Calgary, School of Public Policy, Phone: (403) 399-3377

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