Politics as we all know is about perception, and appearance. So when you see the headline: “Ontario taxpayers gave $163 million to Liberal Party’s biggest corporate donor,” it doesn’t look good. As a matter of fact, some might say it’s borderline corruption.
I’ve blogged about this issue before here. It comes down to the practice of cash-for-access fundraising. Big corporations pay to attend fundraisers featuring high-powered politicians such as Finance Minister Charles Sousa, and even Premier Kathleen Wynne. The appearance is that these corporations could potentially influence policy. No proof of such a tie has ever been found.
The CBC published the article giving it the headline spoken of above. The $163 million refers to an Ethanol Growth fund set up under the McGuinty government worth about $520 million. The intention was to help build ethanol plants in Ontario.
The company used in the CBC article is a privately held corporation called: Greenfield Specialty Alcohol Inc. The gave from $7,900 in 2008 to $182,580 in 2014 to the Liberal Party of Ontario. The company received anywhere from $1.2 million in 2006-07 to about $31 million in 2012-2013. For 2016 the company has donated $19,925 to the Ontario Liberals, and received just over $10.2 million. This company is the biggest corporate donor since Kathleen Wynne became Premier.
Over this period we have the Green Energy Act, the Samsung deal on wind farms. A government frantically looking for an alternate source of energy. At the very least payments to this company suggest an appearance of influence over policy. It also suggests potential outright corruption. Money goes into Liberal Party of Ontario coffers, money comes out of the Ethanol Growth Fund.
The counter-argument on cash-for-access fundraisers is that “everyone does it.” All that does is put the other parties on shaky ground when trying to lecture the Liberals on it. Any party in government should be held to higher standards. Those are our tax dollars, and we work hard for them. They should be spent on transit, fixing roads, upgrading schools; not on pleasing a government’s friends.
Background reading: CBC News