Some Liberal bloggers have made the argument that the per vote subsidy allowed the Liberals to put fundraising reform on the back burner and Harper's decision to end the per vote subsidy will push the Liberals into at last changing the way the Liberals go about fundraising. Thus, Harper's decision may turn out to be a good thing. I find argument akin to someone saying that if they blind themselves, their sense of hearing will become more acute and thus they will be better off. It is a bad argument. It is also based on two false premises.
One, there is no magic fundraising formal. The Conservatives are better at fundraising than the Liberals are not because they are better at pestering their base for donations but because more people believe in the Conservatives than do the Liberals. It is that simple and that complex. Two, the notion that the Liberals were ignoring the fundraising issue because they were getting enough money from the per vote subsidy to compete is absurd. The Conservatives ran anti Ignatieff and Dion ads outside of the writ time and the Liberals were not able to respond in kind.
Finally, regardless of what is good for the Liberal party the decision to end the per vote subsidy is bad policy. There are two reasons defending the per vote subsidy. The first is obvious. Making the political parties more beholden to those with money is a bad idea. However the Conservatives have partially neutralized this argument by limiting the amount any individual can contribute and by forbidding corporations and unions from making contributions. The second is less obvious and needs to be repeatedly explained to the public and to pundits alike. The more emphasis placed on fundraising, the less time politicians have to spend dealing with issues and serving the community. The extreme case is what is happening in the US. Bill Clinton lamented that an ever increasing amount of time was occupied by fundraising and by the end of second term it occupied most of his time and the time of most senators. That was more than 10 years ago. Things are 100 times worse now. We want our politicians believing that politically it is more advantageous for them to spend time representing their ridings and hearing the concerns of their constituents than it is giving speeches at series of $100 dollar a plate fundraising dinners.
We also want to see people be nominated by virtue of what talents they have and not by virtue of what kind of wealthy friends are in their Rolodex.
In order to insure that the politicians are spending more time serving the community and less time fundraising their is another subsidy that should end. Indeed, Canada has long subsidized political parties by making political contributions tax deductible and the amount of money being subsidized by the Canadian tax payer is equal to the amount given out to the political party as part of the per vote subsidy. If we are going to eliminate a subsidy, it should be this one.