COLUMN: Charitable election spending

MORRISBURG — Ah, the stupid season is almost upon us. For this writer, the stupid season is the election spending season. It is the most wonderful time of the year, if you are a sales person for any media outlet. The time where common sense goes out the window, political party (and third-party) wallets open and we are inundated with an audio and visual assault on the senses.

While Canadian political parties do not spend nearly the amount their American cousins do on election advertising, the amount they do spend is stupefying to say the least. In 2011, each of the four major parties (Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green) were allowed to spend 20-21 million dollars during the campaign period. That does not include any advertising before the election writ was dropped. Most of that money national is spent on advertising telling you why their opponents are bad, and they arent’ that bad. Before the writ is dropped, advertising spending by political parties and third-party groups are not subject to any guidelines or limits, that in itself is wrong.

Each of the parties have huge war chests built up of political donations. Most of the political advertising, in my view, is a waste of money. Outside of helping shore up the books for television, radio, newspaper and online companies, there is no benefit to 99.999% of the advertising out there.

The solution many have suggested is to do away with election advertising or severely cap the amount political parties can spend. That is one way to go, but even if I believe that election advertising is a waste of money, the parties should still be able to do it. So let’s make a benefit for all out of it the spending frenzy; make charitable political donations truly charitable.

Right now, when for every $1.00 you donate to a political party, you receive a tax credit for $0.75. Change that to dollar for dollar. For every dollar you donate, you should receive an equivalent valued tax credit. That will increase people’s donations to political parties. Then the spending cap should also be removed. Let the parties spend as much as they want. However, also change the system so that for every dollar a political party spends, an equivalent amount of money MUST be donated to an actual charity, a real charity. Not just a charity of the party’s choosing, but the person donating to the party gets to choose.

All donations to the parties, how they are spent, and whom the charitable donations went to, would all be tracked and published for all to see. This could lead to some interesting donations, such as someone donating to the Conservative Party of Canada, but also directing the charitable portion to the most socially progressive causes. Or someone could donate to the NDP, but also to a Right to Life group, just for laughs.

The end benefit to this is not that political parties get what they want, unfettered spending and donations without limit, its that there becomes a greater benefit to political spending. Right now, the system benefits no one outside of the political hacks, advertising sales people, and media conglomerates. The benefit is that some good comes from the orgy of political spending, benefiting charities all over the country.

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