A clue to a new NDP vote subsidy fraud scheme in the making?
It's a good story. But we're betting its only the tip of the iceberg and some digging would turn up an even bigger story.
In a nutshell, the NDP's executive has refused to apply for a public subsidy to political parties despite a binding motion at last year's party convention and again at this year's. Labour is demanding that the party take the money---an estimated $250,000.
But Selinger knows the subsidy, dubbed a vote tax by the Opposition, is the third rail of politics in Manitoba: Touch it and risk political death.
He's willing to face down the strong labour contingent in the party and suffer a little public embarassment rather than commit political suicide. The subsidy is paid, by law, to any party that asks for it on the basis of $1.25 for every vote received in the last election. The Progressive Conservative Party has refused to apply for it and managed to shame the NDP into passing as well.
The FP - relying on a single anonymous source - has concluded the quarrel reveals a split in the party with labour groups on one side and an unlikeable party leader on the other.
We, on the other hand, asked the questions journalists should ask.
The answer: Big Labour decided to force the hand of a reluctant leader last spring at a party convention. And when Selinger refused to buckle under, they did it again this year.
The party obviously doesn't need the money. It handily outspent the hapless Tories in the last provincial election. And Selinger said he has a solution to the public subsidy matter if the malcontents would only show patience.
But they refused.
So, again, Why?
Labour is treating this as an urgent problem. Is that a clue?
Well, if the NDP in Manitoba don't need the money, who does?
Have you guessed?
The federal NDP, of course.
With the Conservatives winning a majority government in October, 2010, federal vote subsidies were history.
In 2010, the NDP collected $5 million from the federal subsidy program. That was more than the $4.3 million they raised from donations.
When the Conservatives axed the vote subsidy, they cut the money the NDP could count on by more than half.
That's a pretty urgent problem.
And here's a pot of free money just sitting in Manitoba.
Remember, the NDP won the 1999 election by an elaborate election expenses fraud scheme in which they claimed labour volunteers were paid campaign workers and got an unwarranted refund from provincial coffers.
After they got caught, it turned out they had been running this scheme during previous elections as well. The refunds could then be banked and used as unaccounted and untraceable election spending during the next election. They managed to cover up this scheme for years with the help of the head of Elections Manitoba, and current premier Greg Selinger.
The federal NDP needs the money. The provincial NDP can get the money. The unions, which work for both federal and provincial campaigns want the money.
Selinger wants them to shut up.
He introduced a bill in May to let the issue of public subsidies to political parties be decided by, ahem, an independent commissioner. The Free Press said the bill is expected to pass this month.
Remember, this is the government that could only run up a billion-dollar deficit after they amended the balanced budget legislation. And the government that passed a Whistleblower Protection Act, then after a whistleblower stepped forward, watched Manitoba Hydro spend $4 million to try and discredit her.
So you can guess what the, ahem, independent commissioner will recommend: in the interest of promoting democracy, vote subsidies will be distributed to all political parties whether they ask for them or not, and anyone opposed is an enemy of democracy, so there.
Just for the record, here's how the federal vote subsidy was paid out:
Bloc Quebecois $2,763,345 and
Green party $1,877,513
As for private donations raised by the political parties:
Bloc Quebecois $642,550.22
Green Party $1,292,138.72