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Ontarians should listen for a giant sucking sound from Queen’s Park.

Now that the election is over and MPPs know that they don’t have to directly answer to voters for another four years, you can bet that Ontario’s political parties will team up once again to funnel even more money from taxpayers’ wallets into party coffers.

For those who didn’t know, Ontario’s political parties are giving themselves millions of dollars four times a year through a process known as the per-vote subsidy. Each party gets a set amount of money based on how many votes they received in the last election with no strings attached. Parties can spend that money on whatever they want, including lawn signs and attack ads during election campaigns.

But earlier this year, Ontario’s political parties did something unprecedented. All four of them took nine months’ worth of quarterly political welfare payments early, so they could spend the money during this spring’s election campaign.

Never before have Ontario’s political parties taken a payday advance from taxpayers. But thanks to legislation the Ford government passed last year, with no quarrels from the opposition, that’s exactly how it played out.

Roughly $10 million was loaned from you, the taxpayer, to Ontario’s political parties to finance their election campaigns.

Yet now that election day has come and gone and the money is spent, Ontario’s political parties are waking up to the fact that they won’t get quarterly payments for the next nine months, having taken the money early.

Without having to face the wrath of voters for another four years and hungry for cash, you can bet dollars to donuts that Ontario’s political parties will team up once again and try to alter the payday advance to make it a forgivable loan and make sure they get taxpayer cash over the next nine months.

Political parties will pretend they desperately need this cash. As former NDP leader Andrea Horwath said, “there has to be a way of funding democracy.”

But democracy isn’t about sweetheart handouts from taxpayer coffers to partisan politicians. In fact, these payments erode democracy by allowing political parties to skip the legwork to connect with everyday voters and earn donations from supporters. And it certainly isn’t democratic to take the same money twice.

Plus, political parties still raise millions from their supporters. In 2020, while the pandemic led to an economic contraction, Ontario’s political parties still managed to raise millions. They raised nearly $10 million combined. That was actually over and above what the parties raised in 2019, which totaled just over $7 million. This fundraising increase kills any narrative that Ontario’s political parties can’t fund their own operations because of declining donations.

If parties are short on cash, they should be turning to their supporters to help finance party operations over the next nine months. Asking Ontario taxpayers to allow them to double dip by taking a payday advance and getting their pay a second time would be unconscionable.

At the federal level, parties don’t get quarterly payments from taxpayers and all of them have been raking in millions from their supporters. In 2021, their fundraising hit an all-time high. If federal parties can manage to keep the lights on from individual, small dollar donations, their provincial counterparts surely can too.

Four years ago, Premier Doug Ford promised to scrap Ontario’s political welfare regime. At the time, Ford declared that he did “not believe the government should be taking money from hard-working taxpayers and giving it to political parties.”

But instead of ending the system, he expanded it. He also arranged for the payday loan Ontario’s political parties were given this spring. Ford certainly can’t claim he’s fighting for taxpayers if he chooses to move ahead with political welfare double dipping.

The political welfare payday loan was even more evidence that Ontario’s political parties cannot be trusted with taxpayer cash. Taxpayers should say no to double dipping. After that, Ontarians should demand that the program be scrapped altogether. It’s time for Ontario taxpayers to get out of the political party welfare business.

Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Ontario’s political parties have a bad spending habit, but they don’t have to pay for it because taxpayers get stuck with their political welfare scheme.

In Ontario, political parties are given millions from the pockets of hardworking taxpayers through a system referred to as the per-vote subsidy.

This money does not go toward funding their official government office expenses at the provincial legislature. Taxpayers are already on the hook for those expenses.

The political welfare money goes to partisan political parties so they can spend it on anything they want. This includes attack ads, lawn signs, and partisan offices for party bigwigs.

When he was running for office in 2018, Premier Doug Ford promised to scrap Ontario’s political welfare system. Instead, he’s only made it stronger. Ford has also teamed up with other party leaders to have taxpayers give politicians a $10 million payday loan by taking future subsidies before the next election.

Disclosures from 2020 reveal that Ontario’s four major political parties spent a combined $15 million on partisan expenses to help run their political arms.

While Ontario’s political parties might try to claim that they’re the ones footing the bill, the truth is that political welfare payments means that these expenses are being paid in large part by taxpayers.

That’s because the province funnels over $12 million of our hard-earned money to Ontario’s political parties every year. And it’s not as though political operatives are toiling in austere sweatshops. Even a quick glance at their spending shows they don’t need taxpayer charity.

Last year, Ontario’s governing Progressive Conservative Party spent $191,145 on “meetings hosted.” Perhaps the PCs could find a way to spend less than $500 per day hosting meetings.

Ontario’s NDP managed to spend $84,175 on postage in 2020. That’s more than three times as much as the PCs and Liberals spent on stamps combined. Hasn’t the NDP heard of email?

As for the Ontario Liberals, the party with eight MPPs somehow managed to spend $134,790 on office furniture and equipment expenses. Just how many people does a party that no longer has official party status need working at party headquarters?

While some may argue that Ontario’s politicians need to have some of their office expenses covered, taxpayers already spend millions covering the cost of official government offices. Every MPP at Queen’s Park already gets $299,000 to pay for their official offices each year, courtesy of Ontario taxpayers.

With all this wasteful spending, political parties, not Ontario taxpayers, should pick up the tab in funding any non-official expenses. That means ending political welfare.

All four of Ontario’s major political parties have come out in support of party subsidies. They rely on taxpayer dollars to pay their bills. Taxpayer subsidies account for more than half of total income for the PCs, NDP, Liberals, and Greens.

But whenever one calls into question the political welfare system in Ontario, the parties get apoplectic.

“There has to be a way of funding democracy,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

Horwath and other party leaders continuously claim that their parties would be unable to survive and operate at full capacity if the province’s political welfare regime would go the way of the dodo bird.

Nonetheless, these reckless expenses indicate that all four parties have plenty of room for savings. And, 10 years after the federal government repealed political welfare at the federal level, national political fundraising continues to hit new records.

Parties can survive and thrive without handouts.

It’s time to take the cake away from Ontario’s politicians. It’s time to end political welfare.

Jay Goldberg is the Interim Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford blamed the pandemic when he broke his election promise and increased per-vote subsidies for political parties. It was wrong then. Now that Ford has presented a path to reopen the economy, it’s definitely time for him to shut the door on political welfare.

When he was running for office during the 2018 provincial election, Ford rightly promised to scrap per-vote party subsidies.

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

Ford was voicing his objections to the political welfare regime the Wynne Liberals introduced in 2014.

Under the Liberal plan, political parties received an annual 55-cent payment for every vote they received in the most recent provincial election. Wynne’s Liberals cashed in on over $4 million from taxpayers between 2014 and 2018.

Ford promised things would be different.

“Everyone in the province is frustrated,” said Ford. “The party is over with taxpayers’ money.”

Yet in Ford’s first two years in office, his Progressive Conservative government failed to scrap the political welfare scheme.

Then, in February, after Ontarians had endured nearly a year of the pandemic and the economic hardship that accompanied it, Attorney General Doug Downey announced that, rather than keeping Ford’s promise by eliminating political welfare, the government would break the promise and expand the political subsidy.

Downey’s legislation increased the per-vote subsidy by another eight cents.

With Ford’s PCs having garnered over 2.3 million votes in the 2018 election, the enhanced subsidy means that the governing party is entitled to over $1.46 million between now and the next election.

Downey attempted to justify the Ford government’s about face by claiming that political parties needed help amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID came along, and we want to make sure that we have good, vigorous debate here in Ontario,” said Downey.

There’s 800,000 unemployed Ontarians laying awake worrying about their finances. How many taxpayers do you think are currently worried about politicians not having enough money to fund their political attack ads and lawn signs?

Downey also insinuated that “vigorous” debate could only occur in the province if taxpayers are forced to hand over millions of dollars to political parties.

But party fundraising data shows that Ontario’s political parties are doing just fine.

The PCs raised over $4.5 million in 2020. That’s just 10 per cent less than pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, the provincial Liberals tripled their fundraising last year. How many businesses wish their revenues only declined by 10 per cent? How many have achieved a 300 per cent increase?

If Ford’s PCs want to make sure Ontario has a “vigorous” pre-election political debate, $4.5 million will pay for more than enough campaign ads.

Further, political parties also benefit from extremely generous donor tax credits, even before they rake in their per-vote subsidies.

For instance, a voter who donates $1,000 to an Ontario political party receives a $607 tax credit. If that voter donates $1,000 to the Red Cross, the provincial tax credit is $99.

Does Ford truly believe political attacks ads are six times more valuable than the Red Cross?

On top of all of that, politicians get 20 per cent of their campaign expenses refunded by the government, meaning they’re paid for by you, the taxpayer.

Given the government used the pandemic to justify breaking its promise to scrap per-vote subsidies, it’s time for the province to unveil a new plank of Ontario’s reopening plan: scrapping political welfare.

With the election less than a year away, it’s time for Ford to take his first baby step towards getting off the gravy train and scrap the political welfare.

Jay Goldberg is the Interim Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Photo Credit: The Canadian Press

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.