With trust in government having declined significantly over the past two years, it’s well past time for politicians to try to regain the confidence of the people they’re supposed to represent.
Three key accountability reforms would make major strides in that direction.
It’s time to end taxpayer handouts for political parties, stop giving more generous tax credits for political donations over charitable donations, and introduce recall measures in the province of Ontario.
First, Ontario must end the per-vote subsidy.
Every year, Ontario taxpayers are forced to give millions of dollars to political parties through a process that cannot be seen as anything other than a welfare handout.
Under Ontario’s per-vote subsidy regime, a set amount of money is given to Ontario’s four major political parties every three months, to be spent on whatever they want, including lawn signs and attack ads.
If politicians want to undermine faith in the province’s democratic process, taking millions of dollars out of the pockets of hardworking taxpayers and spending it on nasty election season attack ads fits the bill.
To make matters worse, Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised to scrap this unfair system four years ago. But the Ford government has instead made it more costly.
Since the program was first introduced in 2014, nearly $100 million has been funnelled from government coffers to political parties’ pockets.
That’s a lot of money. That could pay the salaries of 235 full-time paramedics for five years but, instead, it’s paying for spin doctors, lawn signs and junk mail.
And it’s not as if Ontario’s political parties are on hurting for cash. Ontario’s three largest parties all raised millions of dollars in both 2020 and 2021.
Ontario taxpayers are tired of working hard so that political parties can get rich. It’s time to scrap political welfare.
Second, it’s time for the province to change its slanted political tax credit regime.
Consider this sad reality: Ontarians who donate to political parties get six times as much in tax credits as Ontarians who donate to charity.
Does that sound right?
Finally, Ontario voters should be able to fire politicians who betray their trust without having to wait years until the next scheduled election.
Recall legislation allows voters to launch a petition and, if it gets the required number of signatures, citizens can go to the ballot box to decide whether to recall a politician in a byelection.
Ontarians have been stuck with politicians accused of sexual harassment, bribery, and forgery for years before being able to vote them out of office in the next scheduled election.
For example, voters in the riding of Simcoe-Grey are still stuck with an MPP, Jim Wilson, who was forced to leave the PC caucus in the face of sexual harassment allegations almost four years ago.
Likewise, London residents were stuck with a mayor accused of bribery and forgery for two years until Joe Fontana was convicted and finally resigned.
Shouldn’t taxpayers have had the right to pick replacements sooner?
People in both British Columbia and Alberta have the power to fire bad politicians between elections. Ontarians should be able to do the same.
Even having recall legislation on the books can go a long way in improving politicians’ responsiveness because they know they could get turfed if they don’t smarten up.
These three key reforms could help restore Ontarians’ faith in the democratic process.
In the present election season, Ontario’s politicians should seize the moment.
Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
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