Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Province names new head of political-party financing overhaul

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The Selinger government has named a new independent allowance commissioner.

Political scientist Paul Thomas will replace William Neville, who has had to step aside due to "personal circumstances," the province announced Friday.

Neville was named to the post in mid-September. He was asked to come up with a new system for subsidizing political parties after the province's two major parties refused to take advantage of the current subsidy scheme.

Several years ago, the NDP government under Gary Doer created a taxpayer subsidy to help political parties cope with the financial hit from an earlier ban on corporate and union donations.

Each registered party was 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. However, the Tories balked at the subsidy. They termed it a "vote tax" and refused to apply for their share. The NDP then followed suit.

As a result, the NDP has passed up $1 million in taxpayer funding over the past four years while the Conservatives have shunned roughly $800,000 in payments. Meanwhile, the smaller parties, with much smaller budgets, have accepted the annual subsidy. The Liberals have pocketed $253,427 over the last four years, the Green party has collected $29,529 and the Communist party $2,400. The annual minimum subsidy is $600 a year.

Last spring, the government passed legislation allowing for the hiring of an independent allowance commissioner to develop a new public-financing process for political parties.

When he was appointed two months ago, Neville was given 90 days to submit a report to the Speaker of the legislature.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 10, 2012 A16

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