Okay, really I mean 2003. But that wouldn’t have made for nearly as fun a headline.
We all know that one of the great perks Stephen Harper will enjoy with his majority government is putting the wood to the Liberal Party of Canada wherever possible. His desire to drop the federal subsidy for political parties will be pushed through. It will happen sooner, rather than later. And it will hurt the Liberals for the forseeable future. At least until they build up the fundraising strength to raise their emaciated hand in cupped fashion, and hoarsely gasp: “Can you spare a little change for a party that’s just a little down on its luck?”
So what do the Liberals do? Trot out the venerable Jean Chretien, architect of the subsidies (as well as architect, in large part, of Harper’s disdain for the natural governing party of Canada). Chretien’s argument for keeping subsidies is, at the same time, laudable and laughable:
Those [parties] who are closer to the poor people, there’s less money to raise among the … poorer people than the rich people, don’t you think? And that will be perhaps, you know, handicapping some element of politics.
Laudable, in that it’s a system that gives at least a fighting chance to the unmachine-like, grassroots movements that could use a leg up. In a Democracy, the more voices the merrier. Chretien’s comments will be laughable in some circles. Conservative Majority circles, in particular. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to give the little guy a leg up. He doesn’t want more voices, he wants fewer. Like one. His. So, the reaction to Chretien’s sentiments about helping the less affluent politicos would be met with a “No S**t, Sherlock!”
Moreover, Chretien’s defence of the subsidy seems just a tad self-serving, in two ways. One, it’s his baby so, of course, he’ll defend it whether it deserves it or not. Two, it’s hard to believe that he’d be as vociferous about this if his party weren’t in its own state of financial distress. Shoe on the other foot? The Chretien I remember would be doing no favours for the Tories.
I imagine that, somewhere, the Prime Minister is greeting Chretien’s plea with a couple of hand gestures. On one hand, the world’s smallest violin. On the other, a little something that might make one think of Pierre Trudeau.