As Samara's founder and Executive Director Alison Loat has pointed out on numerous occasions, political parties receive heavy subsidies from the public, and therefore can be justifiably called to better account for acting in the public interest. For example, in many European countries political parties must spend a certain percentage of their public subsidies on policy research. So there is precedent for mandating the way in which public money is spent.
Not the way the current Conservative Government is headed, is it? Their take is that by cutting public funding, making it harder for groups less likely to vote their way and in other ways gerrymandering the system, they're making it easier for themselves to win in perpetuity.
It's the latest step in a direction laid out far in the past, with money becoming more essential to the process than engagement or even policy - you can spin anything, after all, if you have enough cash to sell the message.
More money means more donations, meaning every piece of the political system is being turned into a trough:
- Members have to fundraise for the Party if they want to get ahead
- riding associations are expected to deliver certain sums annually
- people with money (or at least likely to donate it to a party instead of a hospital) are courted - those without, aren't
- everyone who may possibly have a couple bucks to spare is blasted with emails
What happens in this process is stiff competition for dollars, sure, but that competition doesn't result in better policy and debate - in fact, the opposite happens. More and more energy gets expended on the wrong things, fuelling public cynicism and again, bad choices.
It's sad how the worst offenders are those who blame unions for squeezing their members at the expense of the flexibility of the system, which is exactly what they do.
Canada Post hasn't done much to adapt - how are they faring? RIM didn't adapt, either - how are they doing? In any industry there are competitive tough guys who made a lot of money and left their fields in ashes, but is that sustainable? Is sustainability what we're after?
Or do we prefer new growth out of the ashes of creative destruction?
The choice lies before the partisans but, ultimately, we're the ones who shape the system.