The Liberals in previous years had a bad habit of having expensive dinners that cabinet ministers could attend. This is a problem as it means rich people have more access to the government then people with little or no disposable income. This can be a problem in a democracy.
Mike Schreiner led the charge to reform political fundraising laws in order to stop this ‘pay for access’. During the process he also got corporation and union donations to political entities banned, brought down the donation limits (although the new limits are still higher than most people can afford).
Candidates, MPPs, cabinet ministers can no longer attend fundraising dinners. People do not have to pay to access Ontario politicians.
Elections Ontario has handy guidebooks for Political Parties, Candidates and their CFOs on their website. They are in easy to understand language, spell out clearly what are fundraising events and restrictions on who can attend these events. Donation limits are easily found out as well. The limit is $1222 for 2018. This amount can be donated to:
- a Party, and
- to a constituency association
- and to a campaign.
You can donate $1222 in total to election campaigns. This can be donated to one campaign or spread out over several campaigns. The maximum you can donate in total is $3,666 in total.
Election Finance laws are mildly frustrating for someone in the position of CFO or as a fundraising director. Having to say, “Sorry, you can’t donate that much, as much as I would like to accept it” or “no we can’t charge admission to this event” is hard to do. That is why the recent Earth Day rally in Guelph with David Suzuki, Sarah Harmer, Elizabeth May and Mike Schreiner was free. Anyone could attend the event. We did ask for donations at the event, which is allowed, but a donation was not required for attendance.
However, the frustration is worth it to make democracy stronger. Everyone should have access to the people running for office and in office without having to pay for the privilege. The representatives elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario are there to represent us, the people in the province. Right now, we are having an election, essentially one big job interview for candidates. We all should have access to them, no matter how much money we have, because the candidates who are elected are supposed to represent us at Queen’s Park.
When people running for office break Election Finance laws, I wonder what they do they really think about democracy? What other laws will they break to get or retain power?
The laws governing election spending limits and ‘pay for access’ are there to help make our elections fair and democratic.
Large election events don’t just happen. They are never planned in isolation. Candidates (and especially leaders of parties) never just show up. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and is never an excuse.
Election laws are there to protect you, the people of Ontario.