Well, don't just sit there... Get on it!
It is hard to compete when our nearest competitor receives 3 to 4 times the funding we do. We could say it is related to "ideology", and people more "angry" and "vocal" about their ideology are more willing to give, but, REALLY? Look at the NDP and Green numbers. They're pretty low too, and not really proportional to vote count (when comparing party to party).
We need further reform to our election spending and political fund-raising rules. Instead of letting Harper gain the initiative in this debate - as he has this winter - we need to be out front this year and beyond, demonstrating the NEED for federal financing of political parties, and the NEED for strict spending limits. We also NEED to get off our collective duffs and start raising funds for our own party.
Election spending reform needs to be very strict and include a "spending cap". Sure, we should have voter funding. We should also have tax-deductible donations to political parties. There has to be, however, one caveat: that the total amount spent in a year not exceed x dollars. Name the amount. It could be 5 million, or 7 million. In these troubled times, keep it low. Keep it reasonable. Do not allow extra raised funds be spent during or after the writ. Instead, force these funds to be targeted to "other" party activities (cost of offices, research staff, convention costs, etc.). Any excess funds should be directed to charities of the party's choice (seriously).
Here's an example: Party "x" raises $15 Million. With a spending cap (for advertising) set at $7 million, they would have $8 Million left. If we impose a "cap" of $5 Million on "other/non-election advertising" costs, the party can spend $5 Million on things like offices, events, leader's dinners, subsidies for youth groups, convention subsidies, etc. This would really help the democratic process, while forcing parties to look inward for ideas and debate. Less money for election advertising means that the party leaders and candidates would have to actually GET OUT AND STUMP FOR VOTES, rather than sit back and coast to a win (there certainly are a lot of hard-working candidates out there, but there are probably more who are riding the coat-tails of their party in "home" regions - several Reformers in Alberta are good examples of this).
"But, there's $3 Million left" you say. Oh yes... the last $3 Million that the party raised. What to do with it? Well, we can benefit the nation by donating it to the charity of the party's choice. Big corporations adopt charities all the time? Why not the party's? If the Green Party wants to give their excess $3 Million to Greenpeace, that's their prerogative. If the NDP wants to donate their $3 Million to soup kitchens, so be it. If the Liberals want to give to impoverished Northern communities, great. If the Cons want to donate back to the churches that helped them raise funds, so be it. This part of the process would allow Canadians to see just how "giving" the parties are, and really help assuage the idea of "greedy politicians". Sure, parties wouldn't have to gather extra funds to "give" - they may avoid raising more than the limits, or they may not be able to raise to the limits, but it would be in their best interest to do so (with perception being what it is and such).
The spending caps would certainly level the playing field for all parties. Parties whose traditional demographic isn't "fund-raisers" or "business types" would fair as well as those who are. Is it fair to "penalize" parties that have their supposed "acts together" (ie, lots of rich backers) and can raise lots of money? Is it fair to penalize those who cannot? It is probably constitutionally unfair to allow some parties to benefit because they are better fund-raisers. What would the "Lazy Sloth Party" do? It is beyond their very reason for existing to be able to raise funds.
That, of course is a very hypothetical example, but let's look at it another way. If the demographic that votes for your party is primarily lower middle-class, to lesser well-off folks, but the demographic that votes for another party is the upper middle class and wealthy, voter for voter, you cannot possibly attract more funds. The "party of the rich" will always have more money, and hence the ability to grow their base even further - even to those who wouldn't traditionally vote for them, simply due to good advertising. How can a single mother of 3 even THINK about a donation to a political party - a donation that is predicated (for most donors) on the "tax credit" that she would never qualify for anyway? Take that a step further and you begin to see that soon all parties would stop thinking of the poor, the less well off, or even the "lower" middle class. Even the NDP couldn't survive without some funds from the "more well-to-do" (or they would simply remain a 3rd tier party).
Prime Minister Chretien made some bold moves that helped restrict the influence of big business in politics (even somewhat to the detriment of his own party - how's THAT for a selfless act?). What is the next step in "bettering our democracy"? Political parties and political movements need to worry less about fund-raising, and more towards the things that matter - like developing policy, talking to voters, educating the public. To make politics, and democracy itself, fair for our people, we need to look at changes that regulate party expenditures year round. If we fail to do so, we will be left with only the rich having their voice heard in Ottawa. Worse still, we will see that parties will stop thinking about the poor, near poor, and lower middle class (more than 2/3s of our population)...