Ontario Greens Push To Ban Political Donations For Counties And Province

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Time to get big money out of Ontario politics
(Queen’s Park): “Political fundraising in Ontario doesn’t pass the stink test,” says GPO leader Mike Schreiner.
Schreiner is challenging the Liberal government to ban corporate and union donations to political parties in Ontario. The GPO is also pushing the government to amend the Municipal Elections Act to allow municipalities to ban such donations. The City of Toronto has done this, but other municipalities do not have provincial authority to do it.
“People are sick and tired of reading stories about big ticket events that give deep-pocketed insiders special access to Ministers and the Premier,” says Schreiner. “Serious questions about special deals are being raised. Corporate and union donations have no place in politics.”
The federal government banned corporate and union donations to political parties in 2003 and extended the ban to include donations to candidates in 2006. The new Alberta government made banning corporate and union donations their first legislative act in 2015. The GPO believes it is time for Ontario to clean up its act.
Meat Grinder Metaphor“Citizens vote, not corporations,” says Schreiner. “Government policy should be focused on what’s good for the public. Even the perception that big money might have influence in securing special deals or driving policy decisions is bad for democracy. What about the 100 companies being given a free ride under the new cap-and-trade plan? Are any of them donors to the Liberal party?”
The Green Party of Ontario supports campaign finance reforms that ban corporate and union donations, limit third party advertising and provide some public financing for eligible parties.
“It’s past time to get big money out of Ontario politics,” says Schreiner.
The GPO is on a mission to bring honesty, integrity and good public policy to Queen’s Park. For the Silo, Becky Smit

4 Comments to Ontario Greens Push To Ban Political Donations For Counties And Province

  1. Open Letter to Premier Wynne: Election finance reforms only go half way

    RE: Input for clause by clause consideration of Ontario’s election financing rules

    Dear Hon. Premier Wynne:

    People want the corrupting influence of big money out of politics. Bill 201 will still not prevent wealthy insiders from buying access to power without additional changes.

    You have a decision to make: Do you want to take half measures or do you what to democratize political fundraising in Ontario? Do you want to continue the practice of wealthy insiders buying access to power and cabinet ministers eager to sell it or do you want to end “pay-to-play” politics in Ontario?

    Your party’s tabled amendments take us half way down the road to reform. Why not go all the way?

    The GPO strongly encourages your party, with its majority on the committee considering amendments to Bill 201 this week, to make the following five changes:

    1. Lower donation limits to under $1,000.

    Campaign finance expert Dr. Robert MacDermid recommends a hard annual cap of $1,550 per donor to all parties and constituency associations. Democracy Watch recommends lowering donation limits to Quebec’s limit of $100.

    Your proposed amendments allow rich donors to give $3,600 to parties, candidates and their associations during an election year. Your proposed donation limits are higher than what the average Ontarian can afford. Wealthy corporations, unions and other organizations can exploit these high donation limits to buy additional access to power by funneling large donations through their executives and members of their family.

    The only way to stop the influence of big money on politics is to lower donation limits. The GPO recommends $300.

    This donation limit should apply to candidates themselves and to leadership candidates.

    2. Lower spending limits to $0.68 per elector as in Quebec.

    Bill 201 does not change Ontario’s political party spending limits, currently $0.80 per elector. This means a party’s total campaign spending limit is around $7.4 million, based on the 2014 voters list of 9,248,764 electors.

    Quebec’s limit is $0.68 per elector. If we had that limit in Ontario, parties would have a campaign spending limit of around $6.3 million. Taking over a million dollars out of a party’s potential maximum budget would reduce the pressure to raise big bucks.

    An added benefit, from the perspective of many voters, is that lower spending limits might result in fewer negative attack ads which seem more frequent in today’s free spending political world.

    3. Improve disclosure and oversight rules by requiring donors to list their employers and postal codes and by requiring donations to be verified by Elections Ontario before being transferred to parties and candidates.

    These changes are need to prevent corporations and unions from funnelling donations through their employees or members. In addition, Quebec requires donations to be verified by Elections Quebec to prevent wealthy donors from getting around donation limits.

    4. Ban cash for access events by prohibiting cabinet ministers from fundraising from stakeholders or trading access to themselves for donations.

    It is simply unacceptable that Bill 201 continues to allow politicians to sell access.

    When corporate elites or wealthy individuals pay for the privilege of privately wining and dining political leaders, it undermines the integrity of our political system. Key decisions makers such as the Premier or cabinet ministers should not be or perceived to be available for hire.

    Your proposed code of conduct is not good enough. A legislated ban is needed.

    5. Restore the Auditor General’s power to veto any government ad deemed partisan in nature.

    Your government made a mistake when it watered down the province’s landmark Government Advertising Act. At a time when Bill 201 is proposing necessary reforms to third-party advertising, it only seems right for the government to restore the Auditor General’s ability to ensure that the government of the day does not abuse its power by using public funds for partisan advertising.

    Conclusion

    Premier, now is the time for a political system funded, not by insiders with deep pockets, but by you, me, our friends and neighbours—by voters across Ontario.

    We need to lower donation limits so MPPs can focus on creating good public policy, not raising big bucks.

    We need to lower spending limits to take away the pressure parties have to go after big money.

    Let’s make the focus of politics about people, not about the incessant need to raise big money.

    Bill 201 almost gets us there. Let’s finish the job.

    Sincerely,

    Mike Schreiner
    Leader, GPO

  2. Greens challenge other parties: don’t accept corporate or union donations during by-election

    (Scarborough): The Green Party issued a challenge to all parties on August 9th: will the Liberals, NDP and PCs agree to only accept donations from individuals, not corporations and unions, during the Scarborough Rouge River by-election?

    “People want big money out of politics,” says GPO leader Mike Schreiner. “The coming changes to tighten fundraising rules are a good step but the other parties shouldn’t be using by-elections to cash in before changes become law.”

    “The Green Party’s by-election campaign will not accept corporate or union donations. The other parties have agreed that accepting corporate donations is a problem – will they show their commitment and stop accepting these donations now?”

    The Green Party will also not use the existing loophole in fundraising rules that allow contributors to double their $9,975 annual contribution limit to a political party during a by-election. The Liberals used this loophole to raise $1.6 million in the Whitby-Oshawa by-election earlier this year, even though the campaign spending limit was $142,700.

    Bill 201 currently being considered by the Legislature would ban corporate and union donations and close the loophole that allows contributors to double their donation. The Premier last week challenged parties to avoid exploiting this loophole, even though the Liberals have used the loophole to raise $6.8 million in the last three by-elections.

    “The Liberal shake down of corporate insiders and rich donors is on steroids right now,” says Schreiner. “It is hypocritical to continue to accept donations from corporations, unions and rich insiders during this by-election after being shamed into proposing legislation to tighten fundraising rules.”

    GPO leader Mike Schreiner has led the charge to get big money out of Ontario politics. The GPO plans to use the by-election to highlight flaws in the Liberal’s fundraising reform bill.

    “My campaign will not accept corporate or union donations. I will only accept donations from individuals under the contribution limits, not double the limit,” says GPO candidate Priyan De Silva. “I challenge the other parties and candidates to do the same.”

    “Most of my neighbours don’t have an extra $19,000 to donate. Access to politicians should be available to everyone, not only to those who can afford fancy fundraising dinners,” adds De Silva.

    The GPO is on a mission to bring honesty, integrity and good public policy to Queen’s Park.

    Becky Smit For more info, call 647.830.6486 Please mention the Silo when contacting.

  3. Liberal plan leaves hands in the cookie jar

    (Queen’s Park) – Mike Schreiner, leader of the GPO, was invited to contribute to drafting new legislation through a presentation to the Standing Committee on General Government.

    “The Liberal bill before us takes a step towards reforming fundraising rules to restore trust in our government – but it does not go far enough,” says Schreiner. “If the government is serious about getting big money out of politics, then Bill 201 must lower donation limits and loopholes, reduce party spending limits, and tighten disclosure and oversight rules.”

    The Liberal bill reflects many of the GPO’s priorities, including eliminating corporate and union donations, limiting third-party advertising, and introducing a per-vote allowance to finance political parties. However, there are still some glaring omissions that need to be addressed, and Schreiner’s presentation ensured they remain part of the discussion.

    “Bill 201 starts us down the road toward a better democracy, but doesn’t go far enough. We need lower donation limits so MPPs can focus on creating good public policy,” added Schreiner. “We also need lower spending limits to take away the pressure that we see right now to go after big money – and to make promises in return for exclusive access to MPPs, Ministers and even the Premier.”

    “Changes to Bill 201 can take us all the way down that democratic road. Let’s make the focus of politics about people, not about the incessant need to raise big money,” concluded Schreiner.

    A copy of Mike’s presentation can be found at: http://gpo.ca/how-fix-elections-finances-bill

    Becky Smit

    Sent from Green Party of Ontario
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  4. Good morning, Please find below, Premier Wynne’s statement, following her meeting with Green Party of Ontario Leader, Mike Schreiner.

    “I have just had a meeting with the Leader of the Green Party of Ontario to discuss election financing reform. I want to thank Mr. Schreiner for a very positive meeting to discuss these much-needed changes. He provided input, advice and feedback on the areas for reform and on the questions I asked of him — the same questions I asked the Leaders of the Official Opposition and NDP yesterday. There was much agreement between me and Mr. Schreiner on the areas for reform.

    Mr. Schreiner made some specific requests that I would like to respond to directly. He said he wants to make sure the legislative committee process to consider election financial reform is open, has time to hear from witnesses across the province on the draft legislation, and allows for a full consideration of the draft legislation after both First and Second Reading.

    As I said yesterday, I intend to bring forward legislation in May before the Legislature rises on June 9. With the agreement of the Legislature, we would send that legislation to Standing Committee sooner than usual, after First Reading to allow for a first opportunity to make amendments based on public input, before Second Reading. In addition, further legislative committee hearings after Second Reading will allow for another round of input and amendments.

    This would allow for consultation immediately, while the Legislature is still sitting, and for further consultation during the summer, across Ontario, in agreed-upon locations. The first government witness invited to appear before the legislative committee hearings would be Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer. In the meantime, as the legislation is being drafted, we will consult regularly with the Chief Electoral Officer.

    The second government witness invited to appear before the legislative committee hearings would be Mr. Schreiner.

    In an open letter prior to today’s meeting, Mr. Schreiner asked that “big money” be taken out of politics, and asked the government to bring in comprehensive reforms that include eliminating corporate and union donations prior to the next Ontario general election. The legislation we will introduce this spring will propose a ban on corporate and union donations and I am committed that changes be in place or significantly underway before the June 2018 election.

    He has also asked that the government end the practice of “selling access to Ministers of the Crown.” As I said yesterday, political donations do not buy policy decisions. Any suggestion otherwise is completely false. As Premier, I’ve always been clear that decisions made by me and my Cabinet are always made with the best interests of Ontarians in mind.

    Ministers need to fundraise, just as all MPPs do, to support their work during campaigns.

    Ministers can do small group high-value fundraisers with two stipulations:

    1. The event is publicly disclosed before it occurs.

    2. The Minister is not meeting/fundraising with stakeholders of his/her ministry.

    I have made the decision to immediately cancel upcoming private fundraisers that I or Ministers attend.

    Future Liberal fundraisers will be made public on the OLP website.

    To recap, our government has already undertaken a number of initiatives to make election financing more transparent. In 2007, we introduced third-party advertising rules and real-time disclosure for political donations. Last June, I announced that we would make further changes to the Elections Act. And, as I announced last week, our government plans to introduce legislation on political donations this spring, including measures to transition away from union and corporate donations.

    The legislation we will bring forward this spring will include the following:

    First — reform of third-party advertising rules, including definitions, anti-collusion measures and penalties. Maximum spending limits on third-party advertising will be severely constrained for election periods and constraints considered for pre-election periods.

    Second — a ban on corporate and union donations.

    Third — reduction of maximum allowable donations to a figure that is in the range of what is permitted federally for each Party; to all associations, nomination contestants and candidates, as well as leadership campaigns.

    Fourth — constraints on loans/loan guarantees to parties and candidates, including leadership candidates

    Fifth — reform of by-election donation rules.

    Sixth — overall reduction in spending limits by central parties in election periods and introduction of limits between elections.

    And seventh — introduction of leadership and nomination campaign spending limits and donation rules.

    To reach critical decision points associated with these issues. I have asked the following questions of all three party Leaders.

    On the issue of third-party advertising, we are proposing a much lower spending limit. What should that limit be? What should the constraints on third-party advertising be between elections? Should there also be an individual contribution limit for those advertising campaigns?
    We are proposing a ban on corporate and union donations, which would begin on January 1, 2017. Should there be a transitional subsidy based on vote counts from the previous election? If so, how long should the transition period be in order to allow all parties to adjust?
    We are proposing a lower limit on donations. Should that limit be phased in over time?
    We are proposing that, during by-elections, that there be no special doubling of donations to the central party. By-election campaigns should be restricted to raising funds only to the allowable limit, both locally and centrally. What are the other Leaders’ thoughts on how we should manage any by-elections that occur before the legislation is in effect?
    We are proposing overall spending limit reductions in the writ period and setting limits between elections. We would like the Leaders’ input on this.
    We are proposing setting spending limits for leadership and nomination campaigns. What should these spending and donation limits be?

    The government also intends to bring forward separate legislation this fall to amend the Elections Act, including proposals to:

    Change the fixed election date for the next general election to the spring of 2018
    Allow provisional registration of 16- and 17 year-olds
    Establish a single address authority in Ontario
    Eliminate the first blackout period for all elections, and
    Integrate, simplify and modernize a range of election processes as per the advice of the Chief Electoral Officer.

    It is clear that there are flaws in the current legislation, which all parties have been operating under. The reality is that Ontario’s election financing system has not kept up with changes made federally and in some other provinces. The current system also does not meet today’s public expectations. I am determined to make changes that are right for Ontario. And I believe it is important that we now move expeditiously to make these changes.

    It is important to get this right. I look forward to hearing further from all three Leaders as they consider the answers to the questions I have asked them, so that we can move quickly to bring about these needed reforms.”

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