Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Mar.  8, 2010)


A bill of value


  By John Martin


Even a broken clock is accurate a couple times a day. And now it appears the NDP has come forward with a sound and logical proposition a mere nine weeks into the New Year. I know - I'm shocked too. After all, this is the party that chooses terrorists over Canadian soldiers, criminals over law-abiding citizens, and drug-using freeloaders over hard-working taxpayers.

Oh well, I guess no one can be wrong all the time. Unless of course, you support the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In any event, the credit for the first piece of thoughtful common sense courtesy of Canada's socialists in a long, long time comes from Pat Martin, MP for Winnipeg Centre.

The longtime member introduced a private member's bill in the House of Commons that would essentially make donating to a recognized charity as significant a tax break as contributing to a political party.

As Martin explained, giving to political parties or individual politicians yields a federal tax credit of 75%for the first $400, 50% for the next $350, and 33% on anything else up to a maximum of $1,275. Conversely, charitable donations receive a paltry credit of 15.5% for the first $200 and 29% for anything after that.

In other words, a $400 donation to your preferred party or politician would actually only cost you $100. But giving the same amount to one's favourite charity costs over $300. Pat Martin has a point in asking why there is such a significant discrepancy between the two different types of donations.

By making giving to charity easier on the wallet, charitable organizations would be in a better position to step up and fill the gap as cash strapped governments cut back on program spending.

Numerous charity groups are already in financial trouble and others have had to close their doors. Fundraising, organizing and public relations don't come cheap. Historically, charities, volunteers and churches were as actively involved in providing social services as any government. It would seem that any proposal to make it easier to support charitable causes should at least be given a reasoned and thorough consideration. Even if it comes from a crackerjack clown troupe like the NDP.

But there's a symbolic issue at stake here as well. Why do we seem to value a political contribution so much more than one given to charity?

It's quite possible this whole idea is nothing more than cheap grandstanding by Pat Martin. Given that private members' bills have the proverbial snowball's chance in Hell of surviving, he has nothing to lose by appearing to champion charitable groups over big, nasty political machines - even his own.

Still, it's most encouraging that such a responsible concept could emerge from the NDP. Who knows? If this can happen, maybe Angelina Jolie will start returning my e-mails one day.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


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