On February 25th, the PC government introduced Bill 254 (Protecting Ontario Elections Act).
From its title, one might think Bill 254 is similar to the legislation I proposed in 2019: Bill 150 (Ensuring Transparency and Integrity in Political Party Elections Act). After all, Bill 150 would make voter fraud in internal political party elections illegal for the first time in Canadian history.
Indeed, if the Ford government was truly concerned with “protecting elections,” they would have taken provisions from Bill 150 and included them in Bill 254, instead of ignoring Bill 150 at standing committee for over a year now.
The PC government’s Bill 254 is less concerned with electoral integrity, and more with keeping Ontario’s establishment parties funded by the taxpayer.
Rather than ending the per-vote taxpayer subsidy for political parties this year as promised, with Bill 254 the Ford government wants to raise it by 40%. This will net the Ontario PC Party approximately 5.9 million taxpayer dollars a year until the next election. New parties or parties that did not perform as well in the last election will not receive any subsidy.
The per-vote subsidy keeps establishment parties well-funded and provides them an advantage over any new and up-and-coming parties or parties that threaten the status quo.
The cynicism of the Ford government’s move is compounded by the timing of Bill 254. After locking down our economy for over a year, fining churches for congregating, delaying surgeries and devastating thousands of small businesses, the government believes its PC Party deserves a 40% raise.
There was a time when the PC government was against taxpayer subsidization of political parties. In February 2018, Doug Ford famously pledged to eliminate the per-vote subsidy. He dubbed it “political welfare,” and maintained that if a party couldn’t raise its own money for campaigns, it would “no longer be able to rely on the government to get it from the taxpayer” once he was elected premier.
Three years later, not only has the Ford government broken that promise – they want to increase “political welfare” for their own benefit.
It’s hard to find any promises the Ford government made that they have kept, in an ocean of ever-changing policy positions over the last two years. Taxpayer subsidization of political parties, however, will remain wrong and should be ended immediately – not increased when expedient for those in power.
Cambridge, North Dumfries & North Brant