Opinion

Don't Live in a Swing Riding? Try Donating Strategically

New site helps send money to candidates poised to oust Conservatives.

By Mitchell Anderson 25 Sep 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Mitchell Anderson is a freelance writer based in Vancouver and a frequent contributor to The Tyee. Find his previous Tyee columns here.

What's the best way to affect change in the upcoming election? There's been a lot of talk (as usual) about strategic voting. But only 15 per cent of us live in swing ridings where changing our vote would have any chance of making a difference.

That's why I built a website to focus instead on strategic donation -- making it simple to send your money to the leading opposition candidates in our small number swing ridings.

This is a one-man unfunded effort (with no affiliation to The Tyee, by the way). I believe the Harper government has done enormous damage to our country and has been consistently opposed by over 60 per cent of Canadians. I have no particular connection to any political party. I also have no connection to ThreeHundredEight.com, whose real-time riding projections I am cribbing for daily updates.

The vast majority of ridings in Canada are so-called "safe seats" where the certainty of the projected outcome is more than 80 per cent. Typically less than 65 riding races at any given time are close enough that the projected is less than 70 per cent certain.

To make strategic donation easy, I've provided links to the donation page of the leading opposition riding association in all ridings where current poll data shows the Conservatives are in either first or second place and the certainty of outcome is less than 70 per cent.

So far only 20 seats nationwide consistently meet those conditions over 11 polls since Sept. 8. But much has changed in the last three weeks so check to see the latest swing ridings, which are updated daily on the site.

The sad reality is that money matters in politics and it's urgent that progressives start contributing more than just their votes. Conservatives typically out-fundraise both the Liberals and the NDP combined.

At the end of 2014, the Conservative war chest totalled more than $31 million, compared with $17 million for the Liberals and $10 million for the NDP.

Harper's doubled spending limit

Money is particularly important in this election. By calling the longest election period in 100 years, what Harper really did was raise the spending limit per party to over $54 million. This is more than double the typical spending ceiling of $21 million during a 37-day campaign. Why? For each additional day during the election period, political parties are legally allowed to spend $675,000.

In addition, individual riding associations are now allowed to spend another $73.6 million per party across the country. The grand total in 2015 for each of the major parties? A whopping $128 million -- more than two and a half times the previous election. If Harper can't win on ideas, he can certainly outspend the opposition.

Apparently this cynical strategy is already working. The NDP candidate for Battlefords-Lloydminster just dropped out of the election citing the financial strain of a 78-day campaign.

This failed exercise in democracy is particularly galling given that her Conservative opponent is Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who was instrumental in dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board and selling it a Saudi-owned company.

Can your contribution make a difference? In the last election the Conservatives and NDP spent slightly more than $6 per vote received, the Liberals about $12. That is still far below election spending in the U.S., where Mitt Romney's campaign shelled out over $20 per vote.

Forty-one ridings in the 2011 election were won with less than five per cent of votes cast, and six of these squeakers had margins of victory less than 140 votes. Obviously money does not equate to votes -- nor should it -- but in terms of results (and sore feet) strategic donation might well beat door knocking.

You will also get most of that money back in form of tax refunds -- up to 75 per cent. In fact, Canadian tax law provides far more generous tax breaks for political donations than charitable contributions. In spite of this encouragement from Canada Revenue Agency, Canadians still give 300 times more to charities than our national political process.

Fight an unfair voting system

None of this would be as urgent if we finally jettisoned our antiquated first-past-the-post voting system. Over 60 per cent of voters in 2011 cast their ballots against Stephen Harper. Yet for the last four years he has enjoyed virtual dictatorial powers because his 39 per cent support translated into a false majority.

In fact only three developed democracies in the world still use first-past-the-post: the U.S., U.K. and Canada. Citizens rightly frustrated with unfair election results become disengaged from politics. Voter turnout in Canada has plummeted from 79 per cent in 1962 to 61 per cent in 2011. All manner of imperfect workarounds are needed to mitigate the many failings of our outdated voting system, including strategic voting and strategic donation.

For the record, the Conservatives are the only major party that is not pledging to eliminate our current voting system. For this and many other reasons, both Harper and the first-past-the-post system need to go.

In this election less than 60 seats really count. You can't send your vote there, but you can send your money. Go to StrategicDonation.com and make a difference.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Election 2015,

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