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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

If there is one good thing about going through tougher economic times, it's an opportunity for all of us to look at how we spend our disposable income and also makes us pay more attention to what our various levels of government are doing with our tax dollars.

We have certainly seen some dramatic changes to government thinking in the last few months and in reality, they are only doing what many of us in society have had to do over the last few years. Most of us can't run large deficits like government does.

One area that I have been very disappointed in not being addressed is the way our political system is financed. Saskatchewan still has some of the most outdated campaign finance rules in Canada. We have no limits on donations to political parties and we also have the taxpayer subsidizing political parties in a big way after every election.

The challenges to our democracy today, I think, demands that this change occurs now and there is no better time than when we see our government cutting education budgets, cutting social services and attempting to make us believe we are suffering all of this pain to balance the budget of big-spending politician

The NDP opposition has been raising the issue of corporate donations in the last few weeks and rightly so. Federal financing rules were changed many years ago to limit donations from companies, unions and individuals to a certain limit. Political parties have continued to thrive in Canada's federal elections. Saskatchewan should have the same rules applied.

Another area that I think needs addressing is the rule that rewards political parties if their candidate receives over 15% of the vote in a constituency. That candidate then gets 50% of their spending reimbursed to them by the taxpayer. It rewards big powerful political parties who already have substantial financial wherewithal and the added advantage of having their members visible in all forms of media with taxpayer-paid advertising. Elected members of the Legislature also receive six-figure salaries.

Smaller political parties do not get this taxpayer reward in most ridings. I believe this system is why as soon as the election is called, all of the advertising formats go up in price and stay that way through the election campaign. That means taxpayers' dollars are upping the profit margins for privately run media companies who know that certain of the political parties will be getting taxpayer-paid refunds and therefore can pay the higher rates. I believe it also means that the good advertising spots go to the people and parties that can make the largest buy early in the game further disadvantaging parties without the same buying power before the election is called.

I think it's time there is a serious discussion amongst all of the registered political parties in this province to start cleaning this mess up and helping to control the deficit financing brought about by our Sask Party government. If one looks at the financial returns of the various political parties, the current Sask Party government and its members have been the biggest beneficiaries of our current system.

Our Premier likes to say that everything is on the table when it comes to correcting Saskatchewan's financial mess including things like the funeral costs of society's disadvantaged and the hearing costs for seniors and children with disabilities. I have not heard him talk about cleaning up our political system and removing some of the taxpayer dollars involved before and after elections.

The PC Party will be asking these questions in the near future because as we rebuild our party and look for the opportunity to once again being part of the legislative process, we need to be doing it for the right reasons and not doing things to simply dip into the public trough in order to further our political ambition.

Do you think Brad Wall and whoever the new NDP leader will be have the courage to do the same?

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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons

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