Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday August 26, 2016
Ontario Liberals won’t ban cash-for-access events
Ontario’s Liberal government has bowed to public and opposition pressure to tighten caps further on political donations, but is still not banning cash-for-access fundraising.
Government House Leader Yasir Naqvi on Monday released proposed amendments to Bill 201, the Liberals’ campaign-finance reform legislation. The bill is under review by a legislative committee, which has been holding public hearings for the past two months.
The changes include a $3,600 limit per donor – divided among the central party office, riding associations and individual candidates – in a year with an election or by-election, or $2,400 in a year without either. Currently, donors can contribute up to $33,250 annually; the original text of the bill would have brought that down to $7,750 in a year with an election or by-election.
But the Liberals opted not to make cash-for-access illegal, allowing the controversial fundraising practice that started the furor over campaign finance to continue. Instead of a legislated ban, Mr. Naqvi’s office said he will consult the opposition parties on a code of conduct for MPPs that would offer guidelines for raising money from stakeholders.
The government turned down an interview request for Mr. Naqvi. His spokesman, Kyle Richardson, refused to answer questions directly on why the Liberals are not prohibiting cash-for-access.
“Government amendments are based on the feedback heard at public hearings held across Ontario. We are committed to working with the opposition,” Mr. Richardson wrote in an e-mail.
Under the cash-for-access system, revealed by The Globe and Mail this spring, corporations, unions and wealthy individuals paid up to $10,000 for access to Premier Kathleen Wynne and members of her cabinet, typically over cocktails and dinner. At most events, corporate and union leaders in a given sector – including construction, finance, insurance and pharmaceuticals – gave money to spend time with the cabinet minister responsible for making policy decisions and handing out contracts in the donors’ industry. (Source: Globe & Mail)