The flow of political donations in Ontario

Posted on October 5, 2011 in Governance Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – news/graphic
Oct 5, 2011.    Tamsin McMahon

Unlike the federal government and some provincial governments, Ontario has not banned corporations or unions from donating to political parties. The province allows donors to give up to $9,300 to a party each year, well above the federal limit of $1,100 for individual donations. Companies can exceed the provincial contribution limits by donating through subsidiaries that are legally separate from their parent company, while unions can rack up significant spending by donating through their local bargaining units. Of the more than $14-million that Ontario’s three main parties have collected in pre-campaign donations of at least $100 this year alone, nearly $9-million came from corporations and unions. Here, the National Post’s Tamsin McMahon analyzes some of the biggest spenders:


Parties by the numbers
Despite two back-to-back majority governments, the Liberals trail the Conservatives in pre-campaign donations for 2011, collecting about $6-million to the Tories’ $7-million. The NDP had raised about $1.4-million before the start of the election on Sept. 7. Construction firms were the most generous donors, donating $1.5-million, with slightly more going to the Conservatives than the Liberals and just $29,000 to the NDP. Real Estate developers handed out more than $700,000, with most of it going to the Conservatives and just $215,000 to the Liberals. Banks, insurance companies and financial firms were also more generous when it came to the Tories, donating $500,000 compared with $285,000 to the Liberals. Health-care companies, including pharmacies and long-term care facilities and energy producers handed out their money equally to the two main parties. Green-energy firms favoured the Liberals, although nearly $100,000 of their $250,000 in donations went to the Conservatives.

Top donors:

Research in Motion and its executives
The Waterloo company might be taking a hit in the competitive smartphone and tablet market, but that didn’t stop the BlackBerry makers from being among the most generous donors when it comes to politics. The company and its two top executives donated a combined $55,000 to political parties, much of it to the Liberals. Research In Motion itself is listed as having donated $9,300 to the Conservatives and $9,500 to the Liberals, while founder Mike Lazaridis and his wife, Ophelia Tong, donated a combined $18,600; just $500 went to the Conservatives and the rest to the Liberals. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie and wife Heidi together gave $18,600 to the Liberals.

Triple M Metal and its directors
The Brampton-based metal recycler, which also has business interests in real estate and construction, has given $48,000 to political parties this year, with most of it going to the Liberals. Directors Michele and Antonio Giampaolo have donated a combined $12,800 to the Liberals in 2011, while Triple M’s related businesses, which include an aluminum remelt company and a steel processor, have donated another $35,000. Of that, $9,300 went to the Conservatives and the rest to the Liberals. The government slapped the company with $250,000 in fines over the past two years for workplace safety and environmental violations.

Northland Power and its founder
The Toronto-based renewable energy company with nearly two dozen solar, hydro and thermal-energy projects under development around the province, has donated more than $40,000 to political parties, although half of that has come from company founder James Temerety. Northland itself donated $19,200 this year, with slightly more going to the Conservatives than the Liberals. Mr. Temerety and his wife, Louise, have personally donated another $13,000 to the Conservatives, a company controlled by Mr. Temerety donated another $9,000 to the Conservatives. Donating to both the Liberals and Conservatives “is the proper way to behave as an Ontario-based company to continue to help the political process along,” Northland president John Brace said.

The Toronto-based public infrastructure construction giant has donated nearly $37,000 to political parties, almost all of it going to the Liberals. Its parent company handed the Liberals $9,300, while three of its subsidiaries donated another $23,000. The company, whose public-sector projects include roads, bridges, airport facilities and government facilities, donated another $5,000 to the Conservatives.

Public-sector unions were some of the biggest donors to political parties, with teachers’ unions among the most generous. Like corporations, unions are allowed to exceed the $9,300 limit by giving individual donations through their local bargaining units. That has allowed the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association to donate more than $64,000 — most of it going to the Liberals. Of that, the union’s Ottawa bargaining unit has been the most generous, donating $9,300 to each the Liberals and the NDP. Public elementary teachers have donated another $36,000 this year, mostly to the Liberals, while secondary teachers have given more than $50,000. District 12, the union’s Toronto bargaining unit, has donated the most, giving near the maximum to both the Liberals and the NDP. The district runs a separate political action committee working to “Keep Toronto Tory Free.”

Police officers have donated a total of $31,000 to political parties, with the OPP union donating slightly more to the Liberals than the Conservatives, while the Toronto Police union has given mostly to the Conservatives. The Police Association of Ontario has given evenly to both parties.

Private-sector unions also flexed their financial muscles, with workers in the construction trade donating more than $100,000 to political parties. Almost all of that came from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and virtually all of it went to the Liberals.

National Post, with files from Emily Innes

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