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Opinion: B.C. should scrap per-vote funding for political parties

Per-vote subsidy generates millions for political parties each year
bc-legislature-emilynorton-getty (2)
The per-vote subsidy was first introduced by former premier John Horgan in 2017

British Columbia needs to end the costly per-vote political scheme that takes millions of taxpayer dollars and puts them into political party coffers.

And who wouldn’t want tax relief instead of junk-mail and lawn-signs come election time?

The per-vote subsidy gives millions away to political parties in B.C. based on the number of votes the parties got in the previous provincial election. Political parties get $1.75 per vote received in the most recent election, and that amount ticks up every year with inflation.

In 2024, political parties will receive nearly $3.4 million from B.C. taxpayers through the per-vote subsidy alone. The first half of that was paid out on Jan. 15 with the rest to come on July 15. Since 2018, the per-vote subsidy has cost B.C. taxpayers more than $24.4 million.

That $24.4 million spent on handouts to political parties could pay the salaries of 345 first-year nurses, or build a brand-new elementary school with space for 365 students. Do you think British Columbians prefer better education, health care or some much-needed tax breaks, or more partisan attack ads?

Taxpayers are going to subsidize the New Democrats the most this year, with a total of $1.6 million. Then comes BC United at $1.2 million, followed by the Greens who will receive $514,000 and the BC Conservatives who are in line for a hand-out of $65,000.

The per-vote subsidy was first introduced by then-premier John Horgan in 2017. Horgan had previously spoken out against political welfare, saying “at no time have I said that I prefer to make public dollars responsible for political parties.” As soon as he was elected premier, Horgan introduced the per-vote subsidy.

Initially, the political hand-out was supposed to expire in 2022. But in 2021, David Eby, when he was still attorney general, made the per-vote subsidy permanent and indexed it to inflation so it would rise every year. That means B.C. taxpayers will spend more money every year paying for partisan attack ads and political junk mail.

The federal government realized what a waste of money the per-vote subsidy was and abolished it in 2011. “Political parties should do their own fundraising and not live off of taxpayer-funded handouts,” said Tim Uppal, the then-minister of state for democratic reform. Even after the federal government changed, the subsidy remained on the scrap heap. Ending the federal per-vote subsidy was a good move and one that B.C. should follow.

The per-vote subsidy isn’t the only handout B.C.’s partisan hacks are taking from taxpayers. Political parties are also given 50 per cent of their campaign expenses as a reimbursement from taxpayers. And political party donors are given generous tax credits on their donations. For a donation of $100, a full $75 is refunded through tax credits. If you’re donating that same $100 to a charity like the Red Cross, you only get about $20 back through provincial tax credits.

At a time when British Columbia is more than $100 billion in debt, politicians shouldn’t be spending taxpayer money on attack ads and junk mail. Politicians should get off their backsides and win over donors with their visions of what B.C. can become.

With an election scheduled for this fall, it’s important for British Columbians to realize how our hard-earned tax dollars are being spent. Eby should amend the Elections Act to make sure 2024 is the last year political parties take handouts from tapped-out taxpayers.