Donation ban a good first step in repairing democracy

"It's not everyday a politician offers to curb donations, especially when they also impact their own party..."

Whether you agree with Adrian Dix or not, the NDP leader did get people’s attention when he vowed to ban corporate and union political donations if his party is put in power following the May 14 election.

It’s not everyday a politician offers to curb donations, especially when they also impact their own party, in the name of restoring some sensibility to politics.

Donating to a political party is not only big business, it’s good for business. Whether companies donate to one party or unions donate to another, it’s all in the effort to get their favourite elected.

Which leaves the people doing the voting a little bit side-swiped.

The money gets dumped into the laps of the parties who in turn dump it into their advertising to bombard voters with their message to the point of nausea.

They extoll what’s great about them, what’s wrong with their opponent and how the sun won’t rise if we don’t make the right choice – as long as it’s for them.

Christy Clark, who said “this is the most important election in modern history,” and the Liberals paid $100,000 for her half hour of air time on TV on Sunday night.  Did you watch it?

That money came through party fundraising, which basically is asking for the supporters to give them enough cash to get back in power.

So how much is enough to buy power these days?

IntegrityBC threw out a figure of $18.2 million for the 2013 B.C. Election campaign.

It might sound like a lot but consider what a lot of money buys these days.

In the last federal election the major political parties were allowed to spend $20 million apiece.

Imagine what the $6 billion spent during the 2012 U.S. Election could have done for its people.

It was almost sad to see the race for the  White House reduced to a continuous update on fundraising—which party had the better month, which is leading overall.

But through all that blizzard of bucks, the pundits and politicians still credit people power as the reason for success.

“Boots on the ground,” became the overused slogan for success in the post-election analysis.

Yet when it’s pre-election time, that thinking is far from the forefront.

I find it odd that those running for government spare no expense in trying to win votes.

However, once they gain power, they preach restraint and fiscal responsibility. They tell us how smart they are with money. But when it’s time to give some back to the public in the form of support, benefits or programs, well unfortunately there’s just not enough money.

It doesn’t matter during elections though, money is no object. There’s enough hats, pins and signs for everyone to wave.

The argument can be made that a lot of that money is pumped back into the sign business, the hat business, and, yes, the media in forms of advertising.

But isn’t that ignoring what the entire exercise in democracy is all about?

Remember the days when at least a few young kids would say they wanted to grow up to be Prime Minister of Canada?

Well nowadays that dream is about as far-fetched as being the figure skater-cheerleader my daughter dreamed of when she was five years old.

First of all for any politician in today’s world, you need a big bank account that is expected to grow in leaps and bounds as the potential candidate readies to make a run for office.

You have to be able to schmooze with big money. Know which palms to press and what words to say to get the cheque books out.

Notice I didn’t mention integrity, passion, knowledge of the political issues or ability to connect with people among the criteria for candidacy.

Money talks, and nowhere does it talk louder than in political circles.

But is all that money spent actually worth it?

Do we need to see a sign asking us to vote for a certain party at every corner or every mile along the highway?

Do we need to see never-ending commercials that are geared towards smearing their opponents?

The political pitch has moved to the Internet in a big way with its ads pre-empting even the shortest online video.

There’s no getting away from it. Go to the mailbox, there’s a flyer. Go for a drive, there’s a sign. Close your eyes, there’s a radio ad.

Banning corporate or union donations doesn’t mean those outlets can’t voice their opinion.

They can still promote their ideas through the media and on billboards

But with a ban, they would have to attach their name to the opinion and not quietly give money to politicians to promote their goals.

The day politicians willingly try to hold back on their election spending is the day budgets will always balance, unemployment will vanish and health and education become the number one priorities throughout a term and not just at election time.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.