Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Damion Crawford, says the concept of public (state) financing for election candidates should not be seen as a subsidy.
“What public financing is trying to achieve is to reduce the influence of contributors to the Member’s decision making, in their pursuit of their own self interest. So, I agree wholeheartedly with the concept of public financing; however, the concept of public subsidising is a different situation…" Mr. Crawford said.
The State Minister, who is also Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew, was making his contribution to the debate on the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) Report to Parliament on campaign financing, in the House of Representatives, on April 10.
In its report, the ECJ noted that state funding might act as “a valuable tool in protecting political equality of opportunity and electoral competition, thus creating a level playing field, by enabling new and small parties and persons of modest means to offer themselves as candidates, and compete with parties or candidates who are dominant and, perhaps, are more financially viable."
Mr. Crawford said that if private persons are able to make contributions to candidates, “then it means that the influence will not have been negated."
“So, the public financing would not have achieved the necessary realities if it is half and half. I would want the Members to consider that if we should go with any form of public contribution, it would have to be as an entirety, more so than as a part, meaning a public subsidy,” he added.
For his part, Member of Parliament for North East St. Elizabeth, Raymond Pryce, argued that the ECJ has “grossly” omitted in its review any comments regarding local government elections.
“Is it to be understood that to protect our democracy does not extend to the local government process?” Mr. Pryce queried.
However, he reiterated his support for any measure or set of measures that will protect and improve the country’s democracy.
“I therefore suggest that at best, this document is viewed as a status update on a well intended journey. But, I caution all of us that in as much as the road to hell is paved with good intentions, this House avoids such a fiery destination by reposing this report to its authors as a work in progress, which requires additional work,” Mr. Pryce said.
The ECJ’s report was approved by the House with an amendment, which states that the ECJ should take into consideration the comments and concerns made by Parliamentarians in the debate, and should consider the recommendations in the preparation of drafting instructions (by Cabinet), in finalising legislation on campaign financing.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter