Public Funding of Quebec Political Parties 

An Undemocratic Process from A to Z

– Christine Dandenault –

The aim of what is called the democratic electoral process is to bring political parties to power. The process favours those parties which the ruling class deems can form a party government that will serve their interests. The hope is to have a party in power and a party in the opposition which together are said to represent the electorate. Whosoever did not vote for the party in power it is hoped would have voted for the party in opposition. Thus, everyone is said to be represented in government.

Of course this is not what takes place because the electors neither choose their candidates from amongst their peers, not set the agenda governments take up. The number of people who belong to political parties is less than one per cent of the eligible voters and the non-participation of a large number of eligible voters in elections is increasing. This is why the state subsidizes political parties, especially the cartel parties which could not make it on their own without this money. It makes the cartel parties appendages of the state which is  anti-democratic and makes a mockery of freedom of association and expression. 

The corruption involved in this regime that pays political parties from public funds is best seen during electoral campaigns. This system of funding the parties in the name of enhancing the democracy privileges the cartel parties by providing them with all the resources to put them in power. This system turns ordinary citizens into "third parties" who are penalized for participating in an election on a partisan basis if it costs them money to do so. If that cost exceeds $300, they will be in the news and sued.

Therefore, there is absolutely no possibility for political discourse based on the demands of the Quebec people in an election. Only the self-serving electoral promises of the cartel parties are put forward, some more than others, and there is no meaningful way for the people to participate. The role of electors is to choose a party to vote for, which supposedly gives the parties a "mandate" from the electorate.

The regime of financing parties with public funds does not include in its calculations the enormous amount of free promotion that cartel parties receive through media coverage. The value of the free promotion provided all year long and even more so on the eve of and during an election by radio and television broadcasters, cable companies, newspapers, periodicals, polling firms and other media outlets, only to the cartel parties, is virtually incalculable.

It should be noted that the Election Act guarantees what it calls "media freedom." Élections Québec writes: "The Election Act ensures the freedom of the media both in the treatment of information and in the coverage given to parties and candidates. Thus, at any time during the election period, including election day, the media may cover political issues, candidates and political parties."

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) has been opposed from the outset to the system of state financing of political parties, which it considers anti-democratic in many respects.The electoral law is supposedly designed to ensure that there is no corruption when it comes to fundraising, such as the Liberal Party receiving paper bags filled with cash under the table as revealed during the Sponsorship Scandal. Far from eliminating corruption, it subjects political parties and their donors to state control, violating freedom of association, the right to conscience and the right to privacy.

Freedom of association, which is a matter of individual conscience, has become a matter of state control. In the name of transparency, Élections Québec demands the names of party donors and full information about them to ascertain whether it was really them who gave the money or somebody else.

When a voter wants to contribute to a party, they send the contribution to Élections Québec and it is Élections Québec that decides if the party will receive the contribution or not on the basis of verifying the authenticity of the donor. Should the Party not want to receive a contribution from that donor for reasons of its own, too bad. All decision-making power is usurped by the agency of the state in the name of high ideals.

The intimidation factor is huge with Élections Québec checking on donors through sources such as Revenue Québec and even the person's employer. Their name, political affiliation and postal code are made public. At one time even addresses were published but due to opposition from the PMLQ and others, this was rescinded. If the donor does do not agree to these conditions, they cannot financially support the party of their choice.

The right to privacy, conscience, and association are completely violated and this is supposed to be okay. In exchange, the parties now receive far more money from the state than they did under the prior regime when contribution limits were higher, and state subsidies lower. In other words, parties are no longer financed by their members and these members are no longer the ones who decide party policy or course of action. It is the state. As the saying goes, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

The electoral law simply stifles the right to conscience, to think, to speak for oneself, to have even basic information for an informed vote. The public space is flooded with one-sided coverage of the cartel parties. Through the cartel parties and the media, the agenda is set of what are considered "the issues." Electors are reduced to the status of consumers.

The state recognizes the right of "small parties" to exist but saddles them with that self-serving label to marginalize their program, their candidates and their presence. The right to privacy is violated by the use of databases containing names, age, income, jobs -- all to contact voters without their consent. The ruling elite corrupts all organs of state power and government institutions, so that all that remains is intimidation, prosecution, fines and police powers.

Quebec's electoral system is said to be "representative" but of what exactly?

It is representative of a ruling elite that has reached such a level of corruption that the parties have become appendages of the state, while the electorate is gagged, so that power is kept in the elite's hands. This process must be completely renewed.

The PMLQ reiterates that public funds, the wealth created by the hard work of the people of Quebec, must serve the body politic, not private interests. That is why the political process must be funded, not the parties.

Christine Dandenault is a director of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ)

(Translated from the original french by TML.)

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 10 - October 2022

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