Campaign financing is a really weird topic to be writing about in the middle of summer, 2 years away from an election. It’s mysterious, and probably low on the “why should I care” spectrum.
Thanks to some great reporting by the Globe & Mail about cash for access fundraising here we are. What is it? It’s basically a process where individuals/companies pay for tickets to fundraisers in exchange for access to high-ranking politicians. At one, some attendees paid a reported $10,000/ticket for time with Premier Kathleen Wynne. At another 22 people paid $5000 each for an evening with Finance Minister Charles Sousa. This practice is banned in federal politics, and donations limited to $1525/yr as of January,1,2016.
It’s a matter of optics. It looks bad, even some might say corrupt. Companies in various sectors ranging from construction firms with government contracts, and banks involved in the sell-off of Hydro One would go to these events. The scenario goes if they attend these events then they allegedly could influence policy. Nothing has been proven, but the potential appearance is there that this could happen.
Wynne has rumbled about the possibility of banning this practice much like the federal government has done. Press reports within the last week say the Liberals are less than happy to implement a ban because it would interfere with their fundraising. Wynne is quoted as saying that code of conduct might effectively take care of the issue.
Legislation currently under consideration includes a ban on union and corporate donations, and a cap of $1550/year for individuals. The bill proposes a per vote subsidy of $2.71. It’s before a legislative committee where it looks like it will stay for a while given the heckling and shenanigans.
Nobody can take a high ground on it because this is a tool used by everyone. But something needs to be done for democracy’s sake.