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Ford hikes political welfare: return of the gravy train?

Author: Jay Goldberg 2021/03/30

Premier Doug Ford use to stick up for taxpayers against political parties that were trying to plunder more of our money, but now Ford seems eager to let political parties stick their hands further into taxpayers’ pockets.

Ford rightly railed against political welfare when he was vying for the Progressive Conservative leadership in 2018.

“I do not believe the government should be taking money from hard working taxpayers and giving it to political parties,” said Ford.

Ford was talking about scrapping the political welfare system set up by former premier Kathleen Wynne, which forced taxpayers to give political parties 45 cents every year for every vote each party received in the previous election.

Unfortunately, Ford has changed his tune about political welfare now that he’s Ontario’s premier.

Earlier this month, Ford not only announced that he would be keeping Ontario’s political welfare scheme, but he also announced his plans to give political parties even more tax dollars. Beginning this year, taxpayer subsidies to political parties in Ontario are set to increase by 40 per cent.

Taxpayers shouldn’t buy the spin claiming the per-vote subsidy is needed to keep big money interests out of politics. Ontario has already banned corporate and union donations to political parties, and Ontarians will soon be limited to donations of $3,300 each year. Besides, it’s not like the political party subsidies has stopped the government from shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to big money interests, such as the Ford Motor Company and Maple Leaf Foods.

And while many Ontarians are laying awake these days worried about making it to their next paycheque, it’s a safe bet that most taxpayers aren’t losing any sleep over a lack of political attack ads. Even in the middle of the pandemic, Ford’s PCs raised almost $3.4 million last year. The opposition New Democrats and Liberals raised millions of dollars as well. They certainly are not being starved for cash.

Many taxpayers would be dismayed to learn that the government has already handed out $2.5 million in political welfare in the first three months of this year.

Not to mention other special taxpayer-treatment, such as the Ontario Political Contribution Tax Credit.

If you donate $1,000 to an Ontario political last year, you would have received a $607 provincial tax credit. But if you donated to the Red Cross, your tax credit would only be $99. That means donors to political parties in Ontario get more than six times the return than donors to charitable organizations.

At the federal level, former prime minister Stephen Harper repealed per-vote party subsidies a decade ago.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t have to support political parties they don’t support,” said Harper at the time. 

Despite cries from the opposition parties that this would cripple their finances, every federal political party spent a record amount of money during the 2015 federal election campaign, the first election after the federal per-vote subsidy was eliminated.

Clearly, federal political parties got by just fine without the per-vote subsidy from taxpayers. Ontario provincial parties would too.

Ontarians shouldn’t be forced to subsidize political parties. Ford himself knows political welfare is wrong.

It’s time for our premier to get off the gravy train that he rightly railed against for years and stop handing tax dollars over to political parties.

Jay Goldberg is the interim Ontario Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation