Candidates in PEI get their election expenses reimbursed by the government if they receive 15% of the vote or more.
The NDP and Green Party are calling for the public financing regime to be amended, as in their view it unfairly benefits the two largest parties, the Liberals and the PCs.
A public financing system based on achieving a minimum vote threshold in a first-past-the-post system is indeed set up to benefit large parties, while providing a disadvantage to small parties and independents. Looking at the results of the 2015 election, this is exactly the result that was produced. All of the PC and Liberal candidates met the 15% threshold, while only 5 NDP and 4 Greens met the threshold. It’s unclear whether there were any independent candidates, but if there were they didn’t meet the threshold either.
The current system can be fairly criticized as favouring the incumbents at the expense of smaller or new parties, and independent candidates. Not only do they have the challenge of competing against established political parties, they have to do it without the public funding that is available. It is not a level playing field.
If changes to public financing do come to PEI, close attention should be paid to the impact on all candidates, not just candidates from some or all of the established political parties.
Do you think candidates should receive public funding for their campaigns? If so, are you concerned about the potential barriers to entry they create, and if so how would you address this issue?