Either way, you get what you pay for

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Politics and money go hand-in-hand in so many ways it makes the average head spin like a gambling wheel.

There’s the obvious connection: paying taxes and hoping elected people do right by us, with no sleight of hand. Here’s another one to ponder: the apparently murky world of public support for political parties.

Canada’s riding associations, as reported recently by Elections Canada, have a fair bit of cash tucked away in their war chests. Of the three main parties, the Conservatives are the most well off, with a combined total of $18.3 million in 2012, according to an article from The Canadian Press. The Liberals follow with a total of $6.3 million, ahead of the NDP at $2.3 million.

Fair game, and may the wealthiest party win and all that but, indirectly, the figures also serve as a reminder of a recent change to a means by which parties derived public funding. After the majority win in 2011 by the Conservatives – the champions in fundraising – they moved to eliminate the per-vote subsidy to parties. It represented something under $2 per ballot cast, split proportionally to how the vote went.

The argument was that people shouldn’t be subsidizing a political party unwillingly. It was hard to follow that reasoning, though, since the way it was divvied up, each voter could figure their buck-75 went to their party of choice.

The other side of the coin is how political donations work. Someone helping a party is eligible for an income tax credit. If you hand $100 to a party, and are entitled to a bit of a tax break, a government needs to make up the difference somehow for the general revenues they need. Essentially, that means for every donation to a party that’s eligible for a tax credit, the country’s taxpayers are subsidizing.

There is no easy way around this, obviously. Political advertising and tour buses aren’t free. But the idea that you get the government you paid for becomes a more troublesome thought.

Organizations: Conservatives, Elections Canada, Canadian Press NDP

Geographic location: Canada

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