There’s an election on the distant horizon, so unless you live in complete isolation from society at large (i.e. on Parliament Hill), you should already feel overwhelmed by the unofficial campaign that’s been going on for months. The bad news is that it isn’t going to end any time soon. The good news is that it’s about to become a whole lot sexier! The National Post reports that Canadians can expect “an orgy of spending” leading up to the official campaign. I’m stiff just thinking about it! Bored stiff, that is.
Canada’s political parties are like children. Interpret that as you wish, but know that I mean it in reference to their dogged determination to save money with a specific objective in mind. Since they, like children, beg and receive all their money from other people, they have no problem blowing it all in one place. The big difference, of course, is the amount of money that parties handle relative to children. We’re talking millions of dollars! For example, the NDP received almost $6 million in donations in the first three quarters of 2014- and it was in the middle of the pack. How many political ads can $6 million buy? Trick question…the NDP also received over $2 million in per-vote subsidy during that same period, and has way more than that in the bank. So, if you’re still wondering, it’s ample money to buy enough ads to piss you off. How the heck do they get away with this?
It turns out the fixed-date election might be the biggest spending enabler, as it lets parties know exactly when the official campaign will start. This means they can run an unofficial campaign for pretty much as long as they want before that period. In case you haven’t noticed, with an election scheduled no later than October 2015, the unofficial campaign is already happening.
Don’t we have a spending limit to regulate this sort of thing? Yeah, we do, but it’s so high that no party hit it in 2011. For the record, the spending limit is $21 million per party for the election year. To put that figure in perspective, Natural Resources Canada spent only $16.5 million on tar sand ads during 2013-2014. Those are the ads that made you projectile vomit every time you turned on the TV, used the internet, or visited your local movie theatre. Get ready for more, and consider changing your diet. Instead of focusing on foods that feel good going down, try transitioning to foods that feel good coming back up. When the ad barrage starts, you’ll be glad you thought ahead.
Attending to a larger question: is spending sexy? Does the idea of a sweaty, minimally clothed Justin Trudeau buying ad time and writing cheques excite you? In a purely sexual sense, of course it does! But does it work for any other party leader? Probably not- and politics is only partly about sex appeal anyway. So why will Canada condone the impending spending orgy? It’s a great question, but it doesn’t have a great answer. Perhaps there is a notion, misguided as it may be, that spending more money involves more people in politics. Perhaps politicians feel they should have the right to spend more money if they can raise more relative to other parties. It’s as if money is a measure of popularity, not just a measure of how many companies or unions support a cause. Still, has it crossed Ottawa’s mind that, despite how much people talk about orgies, most people don’t really want to be a part of one? They involve a lot of fluid…
On that note, let’s talk about cutting spending limits. Let’s talk about it because it levels the playing field between candidates and parties, and thus brings more ideas to the table. In this respect, it’s good for democracy. Further, let’s talk about it because it puts more money in Canadians’ pockets, which is where many politicians reportedly think it should be anyway. Finally, let’s talk about it because it would limit corporate and union influence in politics, and in turn give individual voters more influence. Sometimes it’s good to be selfish. Sometimes, despite how good an orgy might sound, it’s good to be a puritan. As the election approaches, feel free to reject the orgy. Fantasize all you want about your favourite politician sweating, moaning, and writing cheques, but know that you can cast your vote with a clear conscience.