Manitoba

Brian Pallister says his plan to cut campaign subsidy for political parties wasn't fair

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is now saying it would have been unfair of his government to take away a subsidy for political campaign expenses as he initially wanted to. But since the rebate still exists, his party will take it.

Amended campaign-expense subsidy 'a reasonable compromise,' Manitoba premier says

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says his party's own idea to eliminate the campaign expense subsidy would have put the Tories at an unfair advantage. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is now saying it would have been unfair of his government to take away a subsidy for political campaign expenses like he initially wanted to.

But since the rebate will continue, his party will take it.

The premier offered more insights this week into his thinking behind the suggested elimination of the campaign subsidy.

Under that subsidy, 50 per cent of campaign expenses could be returned, but only if the candidate or party earned the backing of at least 10 per cent of voters.

Last week, Pallister agreed to keep an amended version of the subsidy in order to get NDP support for his budget bill, which includes a cut to the provincial sales tax.

Before the compromise, Pallister said it wasn't fair that his party got more money back than others because it spent more, while any party which did not receive at least 10 per cent of the popular vote was not eligible for the subsidy.

NDP, Liberals need the subsidy: Pallister

He expanded on the subject of fairness in a scrum with reporters on Tuesday, when he said yanking the subsidy would have hurt his two biggest rivals in the legislature too much.

"The NDP had depended on a vote tax subsidy for the last number of years, as to some degree did the Liberals as well," Pallister said.

"Making a change, as we had originally proposed in mid-term [of his mandate] or later, would have put a disadvantage on them that I don't think would have been fair."

The amended bill, set to pass by June 3, includes a 25 per cent rebate for parties and candidates who get at least five per cent of the vote in an election.

"In the interest of fairness, I think it was a reasonable compromise to allow for some support for a political party that has obviously struggled with its fundraising to have some support from the taxpayer," Pallister said, referring to the Tories' significant advantage in raising donations.

"We arrived at a solution that allows them to maintain some of their subsidy."

NDP Leader Wab Kinew has argued that cutting the campaign expense subsidy would discourage lower-income candidates from running for office. (CBC)

Despite his previous criticism of the rebate, Pallister said his party would cash in.

"Absolutely," he said. "Absolutely we'll accept them as agreed to in a resolution in the House."

PCs spurned per vote subsidy

The Progressive Conservatives have taken a stand before against taking taxpayer election subsidies. They refused a per vote subsidy while in opposition, and then cancelled the rebate shortly after they were ushered into power in 2016.

Pallister suggested the new formula for campaign expense rates probably won't last for long.

"The message has been sent loud and clear: we don't think it's the right thing to do in the long term."

NDP Leader Wab Kinew had argued that cutting the rebate would discourage lower-income people from running for office over fears they'd carry significant debt.

He said his party lost one rural candidate due to those concerns.

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese reports from the Manitoba Legislature for CBC Manitoba. He previously wrote for the Brandon Sun and the Carillon in Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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