Sept. 25, 2014 — Rescue Lake Simcoe, a citizen organization that advocates for the protection of the environmental health of Lake Simcoe, has released updated results from their poll on municipal election campaign financing.
RLSC asked municipal election candidates: Will you promise to accept donations for your 2014 municipal election campaign from individuals only, and refuse donations from corporations and unions?
As of Sept. 23, 324 candidates had been asked, and 58% responded; 80% said YES; 13% said NO;
and 7% are undecided. Response rates vary from 100% in Georgina to 28% in Newmarket.
Municipal results are available at http://www.campaignfairness.com/pollresults/
“These early results suggest that we are not alone in questioning the fairness of election campaign financing,” said Campaign Fairness manager Claire Malcolmson. “Environmental candidates are not appealing to most development industry donors, and that makes it harder for them to fundraise for their campaign.”
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is concerned about corporate donations to campaigns because the development industry is by far the most important financier of the majority of winning candidates’ municipal election campaigns in Southern Ontario.
“The anticipated negative impacts of planned development on Lake Simcoe would undo much of the good work and money being spent to save the Lake. We need elected representatives who are committed to cleaning up the lake, not paving over the watershed,” warns Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition co-founder Robert Eisenberg.
All candidates must follow campaign rules set by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. But there are some rules that give an advantage to candidates supported by unions and corporations.
Candidates do not have to report volunteer time as campaign contributions; a corporation can direct their paid staff to “volunteer” for a candidate the corporation supports.
Although candidates must disclose the names and addresses of donors who contribute more than $100, there is no regulatory office that scrutinizes municipal candidates' election campaign financial statements.
Municipal clerks usually just check the math and post the reports.
York University researcher Robert MacDermid says that violations or mistakes are rarely exposed unless citizens groups analyze the reports submitted by candidates.
Some municipalities still post 2010 election campaign contribution reports on their websites. Voters will not know who has donated to 2014 candidates election campaigns until five months after the election.
The impact of poorly planned new planned development could add 18 – 25% more phosphorus to the lake. Phosphorus is responsible for excessive weed growth, algae blooms, and cold water fish mortality. “To protect the lake we need the greenest, cleanest development possible, nothing less,” said Tim Crooks, president of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.
RLSC encourages voters to find out about their candidates' priorities.
“To get at important Lake Simcoe issues, voters could ask their candidates: 'What is your position on taking campaign contributions from the development companies that have financial interests or active development applications in our municipality?'; 'What will you do to make sure the Lake Simcoe Protection Act is implemented as fully as possible?'; or 'How will you increase the level of protection and the extent of forests and wetlands in our municipality?'” Eisenberg says.