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Canada Tom Mulcair: The art of wooing voters with their own money

19:41  04 may  2021
19:41  04 may  2021 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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There’s nothing new about politicians using the public’s own money to buy their votes. Sometimes it’s so comically obvious that it’s worth asking the question: Why control political fundraising so carefully if the party in power can spend unlimited amounts to woo voters?

a view of a city street filled with lots of traffic: A lot of cars; a lot of votes. Quebecers will be paying significantly less for their driver's licences in the coming two years. © Provided by The Gazette A lot of cars; a lot of votes. Quebecers will be paying significantly less for their driver's licences in the coming two years.

Donald Trump understood the game when he fought to have his signature affixed to the hundreds of millions of cheques the U.S. government was doling out during the pandemic.

One of my all-time favourites, both for its moxie and its obviousness, was the sudden discovery by the Jean Chrétien-Paul Martin federal Liberals that Canadians were paying too much for their heating bills. Thank goodness they were there to do something to cure the ill they’d just diagnosed. Turned out it was nothing a quick government “heating relief” cheque couldn’t fix!

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The auditor general’s review of that particular giveaway was scathing.

It’s been instructive to track the end dates Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have set for the main pandemic emergency benefit, the CERB.

Earlier this year, it was announced there would be enough money to last until June, a likely date for our next general election.

When June began to appear less likely. … Shazam! The recent budget announced that the feds suddenly had enough to last till the third week of September. Look for the vote to be held some time before then.

You might not have noticed but the recent budget also created a brand new category of seniors: 75 and overs. They’ll be getting a one-time $500 cheque in August. From sea to sea to sea, you’ll be hearing: “That Mr. Trudeau, he’s so nice, look what he just sent us!”

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Not to be outdone, Francois Legault’s government last week came up with a knee-slapper of a plan to give a subsidy to every Quebecer with a driver’s licence . That’s a whole lot of people!

Turns out they’ve just discovered the automobile insurance board, the SAAQ, has been overcharging us. In fact, as Transport Minister François Bonnardel announced last Friday, they’ve accumulated a surplus of more than $1 billion and we’re going to get it back.

Never mind the lamentable state of our road network (a billion bucks could fix a lot of potholes) and don’t look behind the screen to see our record budget deficit. Nope, in the name of fairness, equity and all things good, “that nice Mr. Legault” will be giving that money back to Quebecers beginning in 2022. It’s just a coincidence that’s the year of our next provincial election, and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t understand the inherent kindness of the Coaliton Avenir Québec government.

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As election watchdogs try to track the expenses of each spaghetti dinner and every $100 donation, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are artifices galore to get grey zone support to the old line political parties. “Canada 2020” is an example. Purportedly there to think big about the future of Canada, it was more often a front for the Liberals that operated freely, and legally, outside the purview of normal fundraising rules.

It’s going to be interesting to read the upcoming report of the federal ethics commissioner following his inquiry into the WE Charity scandal. It was recently reported that Elections Canada was also looking into WE Charity. Its Liberal connections could help inform both.

Politics today is about data on voters and list building.

When you know the raw numbers of enthusiastic students who would have benefited from the volunteer subsidy program, it’s intriguing to ask what would have become of those lists. The program fell apart, but spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to attract a key political demographic was the heart of the plan.

Without stricter rules, the parties in power can continue to use the public’s money to try to stay in power.

Tom Mulcair, a former leader of the federal NDP, served as minister of the environment in the Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest.

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