Jason Kenney wants Conservative Party membership fee hike rolled back

Former Conservative defence minister Jason Kenney is calling for his party to eliminate a recent hike in the cost of a party membership, because the new fee “significantly discourages participation” in party politics.

Liberals to consider scrapping paid membership at party's national convention in May

Former defence minister Jason Kenney on Friday published a post on his website, saying the party should lower fees to encourage broader membership. (Mark Taylor/Canadian Press)

Former Conservative defence minister Jason Kenney is calling for the elimination of a recent hike in the cost of a Tory Party membership, because the new fee "significantly discourages participation" in party politics.

Kenney made the remarks in a post on his website at a time when the Liberal Party is considering scrapping membership, and the fees that go with it, altogether.

"A $25 one-year fee would significantly discourage participation, particularly from those least inclined to belong in the first place," Kenney writes. "It means $100 for a family of four Conservative supporters.

"It means that many seniors and single parents on modest fixed incomes will see membership as beyond their means and, as a consequence, feel either a deliberate attempt to exclude them or an indication of party indifference or ignorance of their lives," he adds.

Political parties are an ultimate political expression of a robust civil society.- Jason Kenney

The move to roll back the membership fee to where it was before it was hiked to $25 from $15 comes after internal criticism of the price increase by Conservative MPs.

Kenny said membership in political parties in Canada has been on the decline for the past few decades, a trend that threatens Canadians' engagement with the political process.

"Political parties are an ultimate political expression of a robust civil society," Kenney said. "In free societies they are formed organically by citizens with common convictions or loyalties in order to engage in politics, which Aristotle defined as 'the art of free people deliberating on the question of how ought we to order our lives together.'"

Party supporters vs. members

Four years ago, the Liberals agreed to let anyone vote in a leadership contest for the party so long as they agreed to register, for free, as a party supporter. The move, designed to gather information on potential Liberal supporters, saw 300,000 people sign up as supporters.

Now the Liberals have agreed to consider scrapping the notion of party membership in favour of a party supporter status that would allow people who sign up for free to participate in policy development, the nomination of candidates and party conventions among other activities.

Liberals will be asked to approve the proposal at the party's national convention in May. 

Anna Gainey, Liberal Party president, discusses the proposal to introduce a new constitution for the Liberal Party and get rid of party membership fees. 8:12