Wednesday, February 28, 2007

1.75 per vote; next federal election; supplement your local club!

Small parties' stipend assailed as risky
KIRK MAKIN 27/02/07 JUSTICE REPORTER globeandmail

A recent court ruling that gives small political parties $1.75 for each vote cast in their direction is ripe for exploitation by any mischief-maker or frat-house drinker who decides to run a fake party in the next federal election, a federal prosecutor warned yesterday.

Crown counsel Roslyn Levine urged an Ontario Court of Appeal judge to suspend the effect of the ruling until it can be appealed, because an election appears to be just around the corner.

Ms. Levine told Madam Justice Karen Weiler that any university student organization, golf club or pool hall can now declare itself to be a political party, run a single candidate and line up to collect "easy money" for each vote.

"One can only imagine that in a city like Kingston . . . a student union may decide it wants a bigger budget for beer," Ms. Levine said. "It can have 10,000 students vote for its Beer Party; $17,500 is not a bad take. I don't want to single out students, but it is open to abuse to any entity that wants to obtain public funds."

However, Peter Rosenthal, a lawyer who represents a coalition of small parties in the appeal, rejected Ms. Levine's argument as alarmist and futile. He said that the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled firmly in favour of equal treatment for small political parties.

"If there is such irreparable harm to the public interest, why did it take the Attorney-General so long to apply for a stay?" Mr. Rosenthal asked. "They are valiantly trying to save legislation that the Supreme Court has said is undemocratic."

But Ms. Levine fought back, saying that once a fake political party spends its ill-gotten gains, it may very well be impossible for the government to recoup the money.

She said that a single, well-publicized incident involving a fraudulent political freeloader will "make a mockery" of the electoral process and do irreparable harm to the Chief Electoral Officer.

She said that the Chief Electoral Officer has been placed in a position where he has to probe the motivations and earnestness of new parties, and possibly deregister some of them he sees as insincere.

Ms. Levine also told Judge Weiler that Ontario Superior Court Judge Ted Matlow's ruling will likely apply to every region of Canada in the next election, because the federal Chief Electoral Officer has historically strived to ensure electoral "evenness" across the country.

"The spectre of having a decision by a single judge of Superior Court apply across the country without a fulsome analysis is not something that is in the public interest," she said.

Mr. Rosenthal argued yesterday that the government need not worry about the Chief Electoral Officer having to assess the sincerity of fledgling parties, because the Supreme Court has also stated in the past that it is dangerous and unacceptable to try to assess the worthiness of a political party.

Before adjourning the case, Judge Weiler said that the Court of Appeal will attempt to hear the case at the earliest possible opportunity -- late in June.


RugbyJamer said...

I wish I was still a student. The Beer party would be recruting new members, and I would be its glorious leader, or something.

audacious said...

i figure it is worth investigating; supplement my future retirement fund or a vacation, l0l