Elected officials and panelists at a Campaign Fairness
conference March 3 urged Ontario to ban corporate and
union contributions to municipal election campaigns.
Campaign Fairness organized the event to give the interested public a sneak peek at new analysis of 2014 Ontario municipal election candidates' campaign contributions.
The conference also gathered support for the effort to change the Municipal Elections Act, which the Ontario government is reviewing now.
Since 2010, many of the people involved in Campaign Fairness have been calling for a ban on corporate and union financing to level the playing field for all municipal candidates.
Robert Eisenberg, Chair and Co-Founder of Campaign Fairness says, “Just as it would be a distortion of democratic principles to permit corporations and unions to vote in elections, it is equally a distortion to allow them to influence, and in many jurisdictions determine, the outcome of an election."
“Ajax asked the Province to amend the Municipal Elections Act, in 2009, so that any Ontario municipality could do what Toronto has done – pass a bylaw banning corporate and union donations. We are still waiting,” says Ajax Mayor Steve Parish, a panelist at the conference.
“As an advocate for the protection of green space and sustainable planning I was targeted with an anonymous attack campaign during the last municipal election,” says Deb Schulte MP King-Vaughan, also speaking at the event. “There is a great deal of money to be made in land conversion. Spending some of that money to help receptive candidates and attack those not favourable is affecting our democracy and must be addressed.”
Campaign Fairness relies on York University's Political Science Associate Professor Robert MacDermid's analysis of campaign contributions to support their call for a ban.
“The contributions from approximately 625 corporations did not come from a cross-section of corporate Canada," MacDermid says of his analysis of 2014 campaign financial statements. “By far the largest component of corporate contributions is from the development industry.”
“Outside of candidates' self-financing their campaigns, development community contributions are just under a third of all funding to winners and by far the largest single interest group amongst the donor lists,” MacDermid says.
MacDermid divides corporate contributions into developer and development related categories. A corporate contribution was classed as coming from a developer if that company had or has a development related application before a municipal or regional council, the Ontario Municipal Board, a local conservation authority or a school board, or if they could be identified as developers through their websites, newspapers, or the Tarion website, a home warranty program that lists participating developers. Individual contributors who could be linked to development industry companies were also include as part of the development industry.
Development related companies include: planning approval consultants such as surveyors, planners, lawyers, architects, and engineers all working for the developer; those involved in the construction phase; suppliers of building materials; and real estate agents, property managers or marketing companies.
“People are so cynical about government, the province needs to send a signal that they are willing to make election processes more fair,” says David Donnelly, Co-Chair of Campaign Fairness and an environmental lawyer. “What we're asking for isn't radical; four provinces, the City of Toronto, and Canadian federal elections all prohibit corporate and union donations.”
Article and photo courtesy of Campaign Fairness