Stop Big Money in Ontario Politics
Stop Big Money in Ontario Politics
Money to the Ref? We don’t allow that in hockey or basketball or other sports – but in politics it’s legal!
Ontario’s Liberal government proposed last May allowing wealthy people to donate more than $4,500 a year overall to each political party, and more than $7,500 during an election year. In late August they proposed to lower those amounts to $2,600 a year (and $3,600 in a year with an election or by-election) -- but this still much higher than most voters can afford. Ontario's opposition parties seem to support these too high donation limits.
Please sign this petition calling on the Liberals to lower the donation limit to $100 a year – as Quebec did in 2013 to stop wealthy people from using money as an undemocratic, unethical way of influencing politicians and parties.
Politicians are supposed to be the referees who decide what is in the public interest – so why would we allow wealthy people to buy them off with huge donations, including secret donations.
The Toronto Star revealed last spring that Ontario’s Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, and her Cabinet ministers, and the opposition party leaders, were all holding high-priced, secret exclusive events where politicians sell access to themselves in return for a big donation.
When these unethical fundraising events were revealed, the Ontario Liberals first resisted making any changes, and then Premier Wynne stopped the events and promised changes. Some of their proposed changes are good, including: a ban on donations by businesses, unions and other organizations; limits on political party and third party advertising spending leading up to an election, and during an election campaign period, and; registration requirements and limits on donations to nomination race candidates and political party leadership race candidates.
However, the Liberals propose to continue to allow individuals to donate more than $2,400 a year overall to each political party, and more than $3,600 during an election year. That is much, much more than most voters can afford, and will continue to allow wealthy people to use money to influence politicians and parties.
A high donation limit will also make it easy for businesses and unions to give money to their managers (and their family members) to make big donations. Quebec banned donations from businesses and unions years ago, but allowed people to donate $3,000 a year. Elections Quebec audited donations from 2006-2011 and found more than $12 million in donations by business managers that likely came from money their business gave them.
Even though it was illegal in Quebec for businesses to funnel donations through their managers, no one has been charged or prosecuted – the managers just claim it was their money and their decision to make the donation. To stop these corrupting donations, Quebec lowered its donation limit to $100 a year in 2013.
The Ontario Liberals are also proposing to allow candidates to donate $5,000 to their own campaign, and party leadership candidates to donate $25,000 to their campaign. Both these changes will favour wealthy candidates. The petition also calls for these donations to be limited to $100.
Finally, the Liberals also propose to give Ontario’s political parties $2.71 a year for each vote they received in the past election. This would give the Liberals more than $5 million a year, the Progressive Conservatives about $4 million, the NDP about $3 million and the Greens about $630,000. This is too much money – it encourages the parties to bait voters with false promises at election time to get the per-vote money, and if a party loses support between elections it will continue to get the money. A better system is $1 per vote per year, together with matching funds raised with public funding (as in Quebec). The petition also calls for these changes.
Please see background information at:
Democracy Watch news release (August 24, 2016): Ontario political parties going for the gold at their summer games
Globe and Mail (May 9, 2016): Ontario Liberals held more than 90 cash-for-access fundraisers in two-year span
Toronto Star (March 29, 2016): Escalating fundraising demands part of ‘the system’ at Queen’s Park
CBC Power and Politics video (April 1, 2016): Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, discusses the rules around political fundraising