Thursday, January 6, 2011

More cabinet ministers mean more money and more votes

Being a cabinet minister has its perks: prestige, the opportunity to serve Canadians in an important way, and a hefty $75,516.00 bonus, on top of the $157,731.00 yearly salary of an MP. But in addition to these benefits, cabinet ministers also have a better chance of being re-elected than their backbench colleagues.

The rest of the article can be read on The Globe and Mail website.

Along with doing the calculations for this article, I was also able to determine the "new cabinet minister effect", similar to the one I calculated for "star" candidates. It's not a huge boost, but it is a boost nevertheless. It will help me make (hopefully) more accurate riding projections once I'm ready to pronounce on each of the 308 ridings.

UPDATE: The data at the Pundits' Guide was used to run my calculations for this article. I'm sure everyone who writes about federal politics in Canada will agree that the site is an invaluable resource, and I absent-mindedly neglected to credit the site in my original draft. The error has been rectified.


  1. excellent analysis and article.

    It would be interesting to see how long the cabinet glow lasts. Does the 5 years out of Cabinet for the Liberals dissipate? Will the ex-cabinet ministers outperform the rest of the Liberal Party at the polls.

    Do people like Dosanjh and Goodale switch from cabinet glow to star candidates? The name recognition would be powerful but diminishing over time.

    Do cabinet ministers have extra staff? That would provide an extra "bonus" for party workers.

    One of the perks of incumbency is the ability to provide your "volunteers" with well paying jobs between election. There was a small news splash on Jack and Oliva receiving over a million dollars a year of tax payer money. The biggest portion would be to staff. That really dwarfs the parties fund raising and the 100,000 K they might spend on a riding in an election.

    Only using Jack and Olivia as an example. I would guess that any cabinet minister would have equal or better legitimate financial plums to hand out to volunteers.

  2. BCVoR,

    You make an excellent point about how incumbents, especially cabinet ministes and party leaders, can use the public purse to find jobs for their supporters between elections, who then work for them as "volunteers" during campaigns.

    Recent "campaign finance reforms" in Ottawa and now Quebec City have one purpose, and it's not to combat corruption: it's to make sure that outsiders can't compete with incumbents who have advantages funded by taxpayers: ie., paid "volunteers" and annual per-vote subsidies.

    My favourite "reform" was the 2006 law passed by the government restricting individual contributions to their own campaigns to $1,000 per year. Are they worried that candidates could corrupt THEMSELVES by spending their own money on their own campaign? Of course not; it's to stop outsiders from competing on the same level as incumbents.

  3. I would argue that it's the per vote subsidy that favours the incumbents, not the $1000 per donor anual limit.

    I like the $1000 limit.

  4. The per vote subsidy is horribly undemocratic towards outsiders.

    Independents are at a disadvantage to party members.

    New parties are at a disadvantage to old parties.

    I'm amazed that people who care about democracy could support such a thing.

  5. Ira said: "I would argue that it's the per vote subsidy that favours the incumbents, not the $1000 per donor annual limit."

    I can see it both ways. Inherently the per vote subsidy favours the government since the government usually (though not always) gets more votes than the other parties.

    The $1000 annual limit, however, can go both ways. One the one hand, it may favour the government to the extent it makes it harder for the other parties to raise funds to offset the advantage the government has by virtue of the per vote subsidy. (It has been suggested, for example, that the Liberals have been hurt by the $1000 annual limit because they traditionally relied upon a smaller number of large donors than the other parties. Of course, the counter to that is the Liberals have been hurt by their inability to adapt to a changing regulatory environment the way the other parties have).

    On the other hand, you would expect that it would be easier for the government to raise donations than for the opposition parties to do so. Let's face it, people, especially people who are not partisans, are more likely to drop a $1000 donation to be able to talk to a Minister about the issues of the day than to talk to an opposition critic (all else being equal - obvious an impressive opposition MP may have more drawing power than some dude who only made it into cabinet because the PM needed someone from that region). In that case you'd expect the contribution limit to work against the government.

  6. GI said: My favourite "reform" was the 2006 law passed by the government restricting individual contributions to their own campaigns to $1,000 per year. Are they worried that candidates could corrupt THEMSELVES by spending their own money on their own campaign? Of course not; it's to stop outsiders from competing on the same level as incumbents.

    In fairness, I think they're more worried about people buying their nomination. I mean, I can see there being a concern if someone can walk in, pop down 100k (or whatever the riding campaign limit is) and say: "nominate me,and I've got it covered". Moreover, it would be somewhat odd to say you can't give 100k to the Liberal party to be used to tell people to vote Liberal, but you can give 100k to your Liberal election campaign to tell people to vote Liberal.

    In any event, incumbants have always had hefty advantages (more so, back when corporate and labour donations were permitted), the $1000 contribution limit probably doesn't worsen that. There are a number of provisions of Canada's election spending laws (notably the provision which apply to third-party spending and which were upheld in one of the weakest SCC decisions ever - basically the court held that they violated the charter but were justified because the government said they were - in Harper v. Canada. Although some such restrictions can probably justified, but the current ones are overly broad).

  7. Carl,

    "In fairness, I think they're more worried about people buying their nomination."

    I would argue that spending limits do not enhance the procedural fairness of nomination races, because there is none to begin with. A party leader can nominate you or block your nomination for any arbitrary reason; someone's wealth is just as good/bad a non-reason as any.

    What I do care about is that someone who wants to run as an independent candidate cannot save up $5,000 for his own money to run his own campaign, his way. He needs to have friends donate $4,000 of it, or he's out of luck. What democratic value does that serve? Meanwhile, the incumbent can spend up to the campaign spending limit of almost $60,000 on his campaign, which will be nearly completely covered by the per-vote subsidy.

  8. Per vote funding is undemocratic? Now that is a new one.

    I say the amazingly crazy 60% refund for all expenses for anyone getting 10%+ of the vote is a horribly undemocratic item. For example, in my riding the Green vote was less than 100 votes shy of 10%, so we got $0 (not that we spent enough for it to matter a whole lot). Meanwhile the Conservative and Liberal candidates, who spent near the max, got back about $54,000 each. So the Liberal, who got just over twice the Green vote, collects $54k more upfront in taxpayer cash.

    Mix in the insane level of rebate people get for donating (75% for approximately your first $400 - thus you 'donate' $400 but it costs you $100 and taxpayers $300) and the per vote funding seems like nothing.

    Think about it - a campaign could potentially go into debt (owing sign makers, etc.) during a campaign counting on that 60% refund. If all donations were $400 or less then all that the candidate really has to raise is $9,000 of private money (via $36k of official donations, $27k back to donors via tax refunds) vs the $81,000 of taxpayer money they spent on a $90,000 campaign.

    Meanwhile the poor individual who dares to go against this machine has to pray they get 10%+ otherwise they'd have to raise (via $400 max donations) $22,500 from $90k worth of donations, or more than twice what the CPC & LPC would have to raise (as they get 10% just by name value).

    I say per vote funding should be the major source, with the money being split 50-50 between riding associations and the party, or if no party exists it goes straight to the individual. Have donations be treated the same as charity donations. And completely, 100%, remove that idiotic refund for how much you spend as it only encourages going into debt and that is the last thing we want politicians to be good at.

  9. I'd like to remove the per vote subsidy AND the refund.

    Why is there a refund at all?

    When I was on the riding board in Calgary in 1997, we spent the max to get Diane Ablonczy elected, and when the election was over we had enough money left over to spend the max again even if another election were called immediately. We didn't need a refund.

    In fact, the presence of the refund caused us to take our war chest (days after the 1997 election) and invest it in a seg-fund which is probably still funding Diane's campaigns to this day.

  10. Well lookie here.

    A Mr. Eric Grenier gets quoted on the The Agenda
    (Don't worry, it's in the first minute)

    The virus spreads... Good luck in the next year.

  11. Hey, awesome! And he pronounced my name correctly.

    Thanks for the link!

  12. John_Northey care to address my concerns about the undemocratic nature of a per vote subsidy before advocating its expansion ??

    Individuals don't qualify so it puts them at a huge disadvantage to the big parties.

    And new parties that haven't run in previous elections aren't getting money either.

    Reform, Wildrose, the proposed new party in Quebec.

    Basically new ideas and new people are penalized because they weren't around in the last election.

    So it helps keeps old, unpopular parties around.

    Ira's idea seems the most democratic. Remove the refund, remove the per vote subsidy, and stop subsidizing donations.

    (Really there shouldn't be ANY tax break on them. A political party is NOT a charity!)

  13. Having competitive elections is in the public interest. If the political parties receive a bit of money from the public purse to defray the huge costs of using mass media to get their message out, then that's a worthwhile expenditure to have real, competitive elections (as opposed to say, Russian or Egyptian elections.)

    But right now, the funding rules are so skewed toward incumbents that the subsdies have become barriers to entry of new competitors, and so the subsidies are making elections LESS competitive. That is one of the reasons why satisfaction with all incumbent parties is so low, but very few new ones ever get traction.

  14. As to per vote subsidies being 'undemocratic'...errr... what is undemocratic about the $ parties get from the public purse being based on how many people vote for them?

    Now, when it comes to non-parties I think it should be provided to them (IE: you get 10k votes you get $20k a year in subsidies) with the same rules about what you spend it on/etc. as the parties have.

    As to creation of, say, a Wildrose party it would be far more useful to remove the massive advantage the big parties have already - namely the 50-60% they get back in expenses as that can be worth far more than anything else. It is easy for the Liberals & CPC to get loans again it due to the fact it is a lock that they will get 10%+ in the vast majority of ridings.

    If the CPC pushed to remove that insane expense rebate then I could live with removal of the per-vote as well. But as long as they won't even mention it then it is obvious this is nothing but an attempt to hurt the other parties rather than a serious attempt to reform campaign finances.


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