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