Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba Tories plan to refuse new government funding

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MANITOBA Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister has a message for Bill Neville: We don't want to play with you.

Pallister reaffirmed his party's position Thursday that the PCs don't want anything to do with the Selinger government's efforts to make taxpayer subsidization of political parties easier to swallow.

The NDP recently enlisted Neville, a University of Manitoba political scientist, to come up with a more acceptable way to support political parties. He has three months to come up with something.

But Pallister said Neville might as well call it quits now. No matter what he comes up with and whatever spin the NDP puts on it, it's still taxpayers subsidizing political parties.

"Manitobans have to ask themselves what bothers them more, what disturbs them more," Pallister said. "Panhandling or pickpocketing? At least a panhandler asks. The fact of the matter is that the government is not asking."

Four years ago, the NDP under Gary Doer created a taxpayer subsidy to help political parties deal with the financial hit from its earlier ban on corporate and union donations. Each registered party is allowed to apply annually for a government payment of $1.25 for each vote it received in the last general election, to a maximum of $250,000.

The Tories labelled the subsidy a "vote tax" and refused to apply for their share. The NDP, placed in an awkward political position, followed suit.

The NDP has passed up $1 million over the past four years while the Conservatives have refused roughly $800,000. The Liberals have collected $253,427 over the last four years, the Green party $29,529 and the Communist party $2,400.

Pallister said any political party worth its salt should raise its own funds from its supporters.

The NDP said Pallister's Tories have received other statutory subsidies, including a 50 per cent rebate on election-campaign expenses.

"The reality is his party has applied for and has begun to receive $1 million in public subsidies as a result of the last election," NDP house leader Jennifer Howard said.

Pallister said there is no contradiction in his position. "The conduct of elections is necessary for people to have a choice, but the funding of the operation of a political party is not. They're two very different things."

-- with files from The Canadian Press

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2012 A6

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