Star series triggers political fundraising reform

Posted on in Governance Debates

TheStar.com – News/Queen’s Park – Changes to how parties raise money passes unanimously at the Legislature.
Dec. 1, 2016.   By ROBERT BENZIE, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief

Political fundraising legislation spurred by a Star series is now the law of the land.

MPPs voted unanimously Thursday to ban corporate and union donations to political parties, outlaw provincial parliamentarians and candidates from attending fundraisers, and lower contribution limits.

Government House Leader Yasir Naqvi hailed the new law, which will also publicly bankroll the four major political parties based on their vote tallies in the previous election.

“This is a very important piece of legislation that really modernizes the way election financing is done,” said Naqvi.

“I would say it makes Ontario a leader in Canada,” he said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said he was pleased that there will be limits on so-called third-party spending to limit the influence of union-funded groups like the Working Families coalition that has successfully targeted the Tories with attack ads in the past four elections.

“It’s better for our democracy that the most powerful person is the voter now and not big financial interests,” said Brown.

Under the rules, such third-party interest groups would be limited to $100,000 in advertising during elections and $600,000 in the six preceding months.

There would be a $1-million spending limit during that period for political parties.

Brown admitted he attended three PC fundraisers on Wednesday alone as all three parties scramble to raise money before the end of the month when the new law takes effect.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it was time to close the loopholes that allowed the government to “sell access” to the premier and ministers

“The Liberals are absolutely cleaning up their own mess,” said Horwath, adding “the only reason we have reforms is because of the bad behaviour of the Liberal party.”

Under the changes, registered constituency associations for parties that received at least 2 per cent of the vote in the most recent election would each divide $25,000 per year based on the ballots their candidates received.

With 124 ridings up for grabs in the June 2018 election, that means it will cost taxpayers more than $3 million more annually.

That’s over and above the yearly $2.71-per-vote subsidy the major political parties will receive beginning next month.

Under that, the Liberals, with 1,863,974 votes, will get $5.06 million annually, the Progressive Conservatives, with 1,508,811 votes, $4.09 million, the NDP, with 1,144,822 votes, $3.1 million, and the Green Party of Ontario, with 232,536 votes, $630,000.

The formula is based on the results of the June 2014 election.

All three parties at Queen’s Park agreed to that to help wean themselves and their riding associations off of the donations that will lower due to annual contribution limits being slashed to $1,200 a person — from the current $9,975 — and the outright ban on union and corporate donations.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the legislation last March after a series by the Star’s Martin Regg Cohn that revealed cabinet ministers had secret annual fundraising targets for the Ontario Liberal Party of up to $500,000 apiece.

While there had been numerous stories about big-ticket political fundraisers over years, it wasn’t until that stunning disclosure that Wynne moved to revamp the province’s lax laws.

< https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2016/12/01/star-series-triggers-political-fundraising-reform.html >

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