“I must say I don’t really dig the term democratic renewal as we do not live in a democracy now as per the Latin definition- rule by masses. But I can’t think of a better term at this time.” James Kohut
This is the first part in a series of posts suggesting changes to our democratic processes.
Eliminate Alberta’s two tiered election financing system by banning all political donations. This would achieve multiple objectives including halting government members from undertaking partisan fundraising activities while in office and being paid by the public. We need politicians to concentrate on solutions to problems rather than out gallivanting around sucking up to people for money.
In a real fair democracy, no candidate should be “out gunned” due to a lack of political donations. Currently the wealthy can “out gun” the poor with their ability to fund the political party or candidate of their choice to represent their wishes, whereas the poor or unemployed can not afford to “shoot back” with political donations to the party or candidate of their representation choice as they have to use their money to pay the rent or feed the kids. Political donations create an unfair two tiered anti-democratic election system where the poor are at a political disadvantage and such donations must be eliminated to create political fairness and a better democracy.
Furthermore, the wealthy who are willing to donate to a political party or candidate, are subsidized with tax credits. In 2015 the less wealthy or those who oppose political donations essentially subsidized the wealthy, with over $3,800,000 dollars in tax credits. This is money that could have been better utilized in areas such as environmental protection or health care. The current tax credit system for political donations also costs Albertans more tax money which the Chief Electoral Officer must spend in order to monitor election donations and the associated tax credits given with those donations.
Tax credits have been increasing every election. In the next election they will likely surpass $4,000,000 if the trend continues. The cost to the Chief Electoral Officer’s office will also increase in order to monitor political donations, tax credits and election expenses. In the last election it cost $6.73/voter (up 17.23% from the previous election to $18,987,748) to run the election system without tax credits being included. One reason why costs went up is all the monitoring of increasing election donations and tax credits. Court costs for illegal election practices are not considered with these numbers. Alberta can save significant money in the election process and court system by eliminating election donations.
Instead of political donations, elections should be funded with a fixed amount of money by the Elections Alberta office. This could be an annual payment. Rather than handing out tax credits for political donations to wealthier Albertans totalling $3.8 million, that money would be better spent directly to fund political candidates without election donations and all the expensive paper work that is required to track such donations and tax credits. If all candidate’s elections were funded by the Elections Alberta office on an equal basis, this would create a fairer level democratic playing field for all candidates. Election flyers for candidates could be printed using the Provincial Queen’s Printer and mailed by Elections Alberta along with other election materials so that when someone opens their mail box, they will have an election package with flyers from all candidates that they can vote for along with information on how and where to vote. This will create a fairer level democratic playing field that is convenient for the voters and would likely increase voter turn-out as well. Furthermore, Elections Alberta can provide links to all candidates websites and ban all other media advertising in order to reduce costs of monitoring and accounting. Any transportation costs incurred by rural candidates to attend debates could be paid as a typical election expense with such a financing system. City or town candidates should pay travel expenses out of their own pocket as travel distances are not so vast as rural areas and green transportation choices are more readily available. Otherwise, election campaigns should be run on the internet and at the door to reduce costs for tax payers and make the election process simpler.
James Kohut – Democratic Renewal
Annual payment per vote
The Green Party of Alberta supports the public funding of political parties by means of an annual payment of $2 to each registered party for each vote cast for that party in the most recent general election.
It is important to re-invigorate politics in the province. One task is to strengthen political parties so they can function better. Annual payments of this kind ensure that funding follows each voter’s choice and they encourage more people to cast ballots.
Individual contributions would be limited by a Green Party government to a maximum amount to be determined on the basis of further research. That maximum amount would be lower than $4000. (Amended September 2017)
Third-party spending in municipal elections
Whereas third-party spending in municipal elections is currently unregulated,
Whereas this allows for semi-anonymous, including potentially non-local or foreign, funding to interfere in local democratic processes,
Therefore, a Green Party of Alberta government would legislate that the third-party spending regulations for provincial elections be applied to all municipal and school board elections and by-elections, in addition to any further constraints imposed by municipal election bodies. (Adopted September 2017)
Tax credits for political donations
The Green Party of Alberta recommends adoption of the federal government’s donation framework with a 75% credit available for donations up to and including $400, 50% for the next $350, and 33.3% for the following $525 to a total credit limit of $650 for donations up to and including $1275.
Having the provincial and federal schedules in synch will simplify donation credits and increasing the credit at the lower end will provide a larger incentive for smaller donors.
Donation Credit Actual Cost
$50 $37.50 $12.50
$100 $75.00 $25.00
$200 $150.00 $50.00
$400 $300.00 $100.00
$500 $350.00 $150.00
$1000 $558.00 $442.00
$1275 $650.00 $625.00
Currently in Alberta the credit for donations up to and including $200 is 75%, from $201 – 1100 it’s 50% and from $1101 – 2300 it’s 33.3%.