It’s time for the premier to make good on his 2018 promise to nix the per-vote subsidy. Photo credit: Twitter/Doug Ford
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s excuses for maintaining a taxpayer slush fund are wearing thin.
A decade ago, former premier Kathleen Wynne thought it would be a bright idea to give Ontario’s political parties taxpayer dollars with no strings attached.
All three of Ontario’s other major political parties bought into Wynne’s scheme. By getting money directly from taxpayers, political parties would no longer have to work as hard to convince Ontarians to donate to their cause voluntarily.
Political parties would receive a set amount of money four times a year based on how many votes they received in the prior election. The payment was referred as a “per-vote subsidy.”
This political welfare scheme was both bad for taxpayers and bad for Ontario’s political parties.
Taxpayers were forced to give upwards of $12 million per year to Ontario’s political parties with no strings attached. And Ontario’s political parties didn’t have to stay in tune with voters as much as before, as they could rely on stable taxpayer-funded payments from the government instead.
When he was running for office in 2018, Ford recognized that Wynne’s political welfare system had to go.
“I do not believe the government should be taking money from hard-working taxpayers and giving it to political parties,” said Ford in 2018.
Oh, how things have changed.
Ford spent most of his first term finding excuses not to scrap Wynne’s political welfare scheme. First, he decided to taper the payments down gradually over a period of several years. But when the pandemic hit, Ford increased the per-vote subsidy to its highest level on record.
Ford claimed that political parties needed taxpayer dollars during the pandemic because donations to parties were likely to fall due to the economic squeeze many families were facing.
Even if that were true, political parties should have to share in the tough times, just like taxpayers.
But Ford was wrong. In 2019, the year before the pandemic hit, Ontario’s political parties collectively raised about $8 million. In 2021, at the height of the pandemic, they collectively raised $16 million.
Political parties actually raised more, not less, during the pandemic.
Given the evidence, one would think that Ford would end the program immediately. If his rationale for keeping it rested on political parties falling on hard times due to the pandemic, that rationale simply doesn’t exist.
Yet, the Ford government has decided to keep the party with taxpayer dollars going. Ford is still using the pandemic as an excuse for keeping the per-vote subsidy, with the government not planning to eliminate the program until the end of next year.
The fact that Ford isn’t immediately repealing this program is proof positive that this was always about political parties raking in taxpayer cash and never about falling on hard times due to a pandemic.
Ontarians are sick and tired of politicians taking advantage of the hardworking taxpayer. Last year, food prices for families were up $1,000 over the year prior. Inflation is leading to soaring living costs, with families feeling the pinch at the kitchen table, the grocery store and the gas pump.
It’s time for Ontario’s politicians to show that they empathize with the hard times families are confronting. A great place to start would be to stop fleecing taxpayers for millions of dollars to be spent on attack ads and lawn signs come election time.
With a provincial budget just weeks away, it’s time for Ford to get serious about standing on the side of taxpayers and immediately repeal the per-vote subsidy.
Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. He previously served as a policy fellow at the Munk School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. Jay holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Toronto.