Campaign funding IS the game

Finally, after seven days of relentless coalition fear-mongering, the Harper government, oh no, wait a minute, that would be the Conservative Party — or, rather Harper  (gosh, it’s hard to keep them straight, isn’t it?) has put out a policy. Is it childcare? Healthcare? Education? Environment? Why, no. Instead, Harper has pledged to remove campaign subsidies for all political parties.

These are monies that are paid directly to the political parties to make up for the ban on corporate and union donations. Needless to say, the only party that would benefit from this policy shift would be the Conservatives. That ‘reckless coalition’ coalesced last time over this very policy initiative put forward by the Harper minority government, and if he hadn’t prorogued Parliament (definition: played dirty), he would have been toppled.

This all reminds me of a game I played in high school called Star Power.

We were each given an equal number of coloured chips — each colour had  a certain value — and five minutes to negotiate to try to increase our stash.

At the end of the first round of the game, whoever had managed to make a profit (which could only be achieved in a level playing field by lying) got to make up a rule for the next round.

And sure enough, the rule created by the winner for the next round was ‘you have to give me your most valuable chips,” followed by the next rule, which was “you have to give me all your chips.’

As Tim Naumetz points out, the arguments behind Harper’s pledge (including the rather baffling one that campaign funding leads to continuous electioneering) simply don’t hold any water.

Naumetz points out that the various elections we’ve been through recently had nothing to do with funding. After Paul Martin succeeded Jean Chretien as party leader, thereby becoming Prime Minister, he needed an election to legitimize his authority. He lost and Harper achieved a minority government. But all the elections since have been instigated by Harper himself.

Which means the perpetual electioneering hasn’t been because of those pesky compaign contributions that Harper wants gone but by his own insatiable (and expensive, for us — about $ 300 million of our tax dollars per election) desire to get that elusive majority government.

Harper’s other argument is that these contributions force taxpayers to fund political parties they don’t support.  I find that pretty funny. After all, my taxpayer dollars have been used by the Harper government to pay for lots of things that I don’t agree with, and he doesn’t seem to care about my feelings when it comes to those.  Let me list just a few:

They’ve been used to cancel the long form census, resulting in the resignation of the Chief Statistician, Munir Sheikh, who couldn’t abide the Harper government’s completely false assertion that he supported that policy;

They were used to fire the head of the Nuclear Safety Board, Linda Keen, who disagreed with the Harper government over the safety of the Chalk River nuclear reactor, and who, by the way, was supposed to be the head of an independent, arms’ length, body;

They were used to vilify a highly regarded diplomat, Richard Colvin, who insisted that innocent detainees in Afghanistan were being tortured, contrary to the Harper government’s insistence that they weren’t. (Colvin, by the way, has filed a complaint about the reprisals he was subjected to by the Harper government after being called to testify before a Commons committee and telling the truth. That will no doubt cost more of my tax dollars for the Harper government to defend);

My tax dollars were used to muck around in former veteran’s Sean Bruyea’s private medical records after he criticized the Harper government’s treatment of veterans, and to smear him publicly;

They were used by Elections Canada to deal with matters directly related to charges laid against four Conservatives (including two senators) for misusing funds. About forty per cent of Elections Canada’s budget for legal advice was spent investigating something that should never have happened if the Tories had only played fair. (Sorry, make that ‘allegedly’ played fair. After all, I wouldn’t want my tax dollars used to sue me for defamation. Although Harper’s done that, too, suing the Liberal Party for defamation,  lest we forget Chuck Cadman);

And my tax dollars were used to pay over a half million dollars severance to Christiane Ouimet, the Chief Integrity Commissioner who was appointed by the Harper government, and resigned when the Auditor General reported that she did nothing during her tenure to deal with the complaints about the government that were referred to her. (That amount, I should add, required that she zipper lip).

Star Power indeed.

The nice thing that I remember about the game, although it wasn’t much fun when I was actually in it, is that as the rounds progressed, the players who didn’t hold any power began to see how unfair the rules really were. At first, they refused to play. The next rule from the guy holding all the chips, needless to say, was that they had to.

But eventually, they said ‘no.’ After several rounds of passivity, they started to fight back. Things got pretty angry (slaps, pushes, name-calling) before the teacher finally called a halt.  The next day, when we’d cooled down, we talked about what had happened and what power can do to people.

I’m not sure what round we’re in with this election, but I recognize the game.


Peggy’s regular blog posts on writing and getting published will resume on May 3rd, after the Canadian election.

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