Even without Kathy Dunderdale, the PC Party is likely to lose the next election; they need to start thinking about life after power and about their long term prospects. Here is some advice addressed to the PC Party on how to prepare for their return to opposition.
1. Repeal or amend Bill 29
As long as it remains in effect, Dwight Ball will use Bill 29 as a bludgeon against the Tories. The bill is going to be repealed or amended in the near future, so you may as well do it yourselves and take the credit. Get your amendments endorsed by the Centre for Law and Democracy to neutralize any criticism that they don’t go far enough. You can counter the charge of flip-flopping by spinning it like this:
“While we are not persuaded by criticisms of Bill 29 itself, we acknowledge that a significant share of the public views the bill with suspicion. We also agree that there is always room for improvement when it comes to democracy. So in an effort to satisfy the concerns of all parties and to reaffirm our commitment to transparency and accountability, etc. etc..”
Just get it done so you don’t spend the whole election campaign getting beaten up on this issue.
2. Political finance reform
The governing party has a huge advantage when it comes to raising money. In 2012, the PCs received almost 10 times more in political contributions than the other two parties combined. The money comes mostly from businesses trying to curry favour with government, so it will all go to your opponents when they take power. Now is the time to change our corrupt, pay-to-play, winner-takes-all political finance system for good. There are several ways to do this; here are a few possibilities:
- Place a cap on contributions of, say, $4,000 per contributor, per party, per year.
- Eliminate the tax credit for political contributions which currently costs the province hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year. Contributors get up to 75 per cent of their contributions back in reduced income taxes – a much bigger break than for charitable donations.
- Use some of the revenue gained by eliminating the tax credit to institute a modest, per-vote public subsidy for political parties, like the one that existed federally before Harper got rid of it. This would partly address the reduction in funding that the first two measures would create, and is more democratic and less corrupt than the current system.
3. Whistleblower legislation
Danny Williams promised whistleblower legislation in the 2007 election campaign, but never delivered – probably because whistleblowers cause headaches for the people in charge. What better bill to pass on the way out the door? Ed Hollett has made it easy by preparing draft legislation.
4. Fix the Electoral Boundaries Act
As currently written, the Electoral Boundaries Act requires that provincial electoral boundaries be redrawn in 2016 based on the 2011 census, instead of waiting a few months for the 2016 census to come out. Using five year old data is not only dumb, but results in the Northeast Avalon being underrepresented in the House of Assembly, as indicated by the following chart.
(Source: Statistics Canada)
Since the PC party has traditionally found it’s strongest support in the Avalon region, it would be to the party’s advantage to redraw boundaries using the 2016 census rather than the 2011 census. This would give them a small, but significant edge until the boundaries are redrawn in 2026. This is a very sensible change in policy that is resistant to charges of political opportunism. Ideally, the electoral boundaries commission would take into account population projections, but that is probably asking for too much.
These reforms would help restore public trust in the PC party and put them in a better position for a future return to power. They also just happen to be the right thing to do.