Monday, June 29, 2009

On impending attacks

Others have already commented on the statement that the Cons have every intention of eliminating vote-based funding for political parties:
Whenever the election does come, Harper has one plan in mind for afterward: the elimination of public funding to political parties. A punishing blow to his opponents. Sure, the idea caused a showdown last autumn, the adviser said. “But in retrospect, we should have stuck to our guns. It was strategically smart. It’s still strategically smart. We’re going to run again on it. And we’re going to do it, if we win the next election. It’s coming.”
But I haven't heard much discussion yet about the chances of the move going further this time than it did as part of the 2008 FU. So I'll take the opportunity to expand on my comment over at Challenging the Commonplace about the danger that the Cons might succeed this time out.

Remember that at the time of the fiscal update, the Cons' plan was based on the laughable theory that the NDP would support a fiscal update which ran contrary to everything the party stood for in the name of inflicting damage on the Libs:
(According to "various and sundry Conservative pundits, both official and unofficial"), the Conservatives are counting on the NDP eventually coming around to their point of view, on the theory that Jack Layton and company’s almost pathological desire to destroy the Liberal Party forever will override any short-term concern over losing a few million dollars a year.
I noted at the time (as well as later) the sheer gall the Cons exhibited in first assuming that the NDP would accept both a blow to its own finances and an abhorrent policy package in exchange for the possibility of hurting the Libs even worse than themselves. And it became all the more comical when the Cons then tried to paint the NDP's decision to instead pursue a coalition which could have resulted in better policies for the country at large as reflecting a comparative lack of principle.

Fortunately, the NDP actually did stick up for its values rather than bowing to Harper's pressure. But unfortunately, it may soon be the Libs in the same position. And after all the principles they've thrown under the bus in the last 79 confidence votes, there's little reason for confidence that they'll treat per-vote funding any differently.

Having spent most of this year crowing about some improvement in fund-raising, the Libs would seem far less likely to recognize any risk to themselves in supporting the elimination of per-vote funding than was the case last fall. And as I noted in response to Chrystal's post, if the Libs think they can count on keeping up their early-2009 fund-raising levels, it's entirely possible that Harper and Ignatieff could see it as mutually beneficial to cut funding to the NDP, Bloc and Greens who operate as barriers to anybody's ability to form a majority government.

Of course, it could well be that Harper will instead prefer to keep the issue in his pocket as part of an anti-Ottawa message in the next election campaign. But it shouldn't come as a surprise if the Cons move to cut their inconvenient opponents out of Canada's political scene at the earliest opportunity - nor if the Libs decide to roll over on party financing as they have on so many issues before.

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