It’s time to kill Ontario’s political welfare regime

Author: Jay Goldberg 2024/06/11

One hundred million dollars.

That’s how much Ontario’s political parties will have taken from taxpayers before its sunset clause sets in the new year.

Eight years ago, former premier Kathleen Wynne thought it would be a splendid idea to take money out of the pockets of hardworking taxpayers and hand it over to political parties, with no strings attached.

Political parties receive a specific dollar amount four times a year based on how many votes they received in the most recent election. And they can spend it on whatever they want.

When the next set of quarterly payments go out at the end of the month, the governing Progressive Conservatives will bring in $1.2 million and the opposition parties a combined $2.9 million.

And by the end of 2024, total payments from Ontario’s political welfare program will have crossed the $100-million mark.

It’s shameful that Ontario’s political parties reach their hands into the taxpayer cookie jar to pay for things the public would never want to finance, like lawn signs and election attack ads.

It’s even more shameful that the man who pledged to end the program is now in his sixth year as Ontario’s premier and hasn’t kept his promise yet.

When Ford ran for office in 2018, he famously declared that he did not “believe the government should be taking money from hard-working taxpayers and giving it to political parties.”

Ford promised to scrap the program.

To his credit, when Ford first took office, he started to taper the program down.

But Ford reversed course just two years into his mandate. He increased the payments to historic highs and blamed the pandemic for breathing life back into Wynne’s program.

It’s a little rich to blame the pandemic for extending the political welfare regime when Ontario’s political parties raised funds in record numbers during that very pandemic.

And it’s hard for taxpayers to take the pandemic excuse seriously when Ford kept using it to extend the program for years until the end of 2024.

Although taxpayers have endured a lot, there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel. Ford’s four-year political welfare extension is set to end at the end of this year.

If Ford doesn’t go wobbly, Wynne’s political handouts will reach their demise in less than seven months.

There are some, such as Ontario’s opposition parties, who say political welfare is needed to keep big money out of politics.

But the feds got rid of the per-vote subsidy a decade ago, while still banning corporate and union donations. It’s possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.

On top of that, Ontario’s political parties also get a lot of massive perks.

First, political parties get rebates for election expenses to the tune of five cents per eligible elector in each riding, so long as their candidate gets 15 per cent of the popular vote. In a riding of 100,000 people, that’s $5,000 for each party.

Second, candidates themselves get rebates. Every candidate who receives at least five per cent of the popular vote gets 20 per cent of campaign expenses reimbursed.

Third, there are very generous tax credits to help encourage donations to political parties. Fully 75 per cent of the first $486 an Ontario voter donates to a political party gets sent back to that voter via a refundable tax credit.

Those three perks are more than generous. Ontarians shouldn’t have to give parties strings-free handouts too.

Without political welfare payments, parties in most other provinces and at the federal level have to rely on supporters’ donations to stay afloat. That’s the way it should be.

While the countdown to the end of political welfare in Ontario is on, taxpayers must stay vigilant. Ford flipflopped once, but we can’t let him do it again.

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