Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"fair" political fundraising and spending.

Canada's New(ish) Government is moving towards further restrictions on political donations and loans, and previous governments enacted legislation limiting annual political donations and limits on how much non-political entities can spend during an election to promote or condemn a message, issue, Party or candidate.

This has all been in the name of "fairness."

The logic is that if everyone has a set amount they can spend, then wealthy individuals won't have more influence than the Average Joe on elections and the political process.

This is, of course, nonsense.

Ignoring whether or not you think it's the right thing to do, it's completely ineffective. In the same way that the socialization of Canadian health care and education was unsuccessful in curbing the advantages of wealth - where once money could get you ahead, now powerful connections (possessed almost exclusively by the wealthy) are the currency of these systems - money will never stop creating influence, whether or not it's used directly.

What these donation and spending limitations do do is restrict the ability of private citizens or groups to affect the political process through information campaigns or donations to a favoured candidate and amplify the extent to which politicians are able to pervert their position any issue to the public.

Take election spending as an example. Unless you are spending less than the equivalent of $3588 to a maximum of $179,400, (roughly 4% of what politicians can spend - excluding any free media they're guaranteed through legislation) and are successfully registered with Elections Canada, you will not be allowed to run advertisements or campaigns (including lawn signs, fliers, etc.) during an election.

While this has been recognized as an infringement on the rights guaranteed to Canadians under the Charter, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that this infringement is acceptable. The logic is that gag laws protect Canadians from misrepresentation or unbalanced influence during an election campaign.

Basically, a bunch of lawyers have ruled that politicians are the only ones trustworthy enough to inform the public about election-worthy issues in a reliable way. Fan-freaking-tastic.

Gerry Nicholls points out in a Toronto Star op-ed today that Stephen Harper used to be against this oppression of individual rights by the political establishment, but no more.

The battle for individual rights and freedoms is one that's always worth fighting. One Canadians should fight, and should demand their governments fight for as well.

(h/t for some of my facts.)

No comments: