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New law shouldn’t give wealthy donors special access to ministers: Thomas


Toronto – Without a clear ban on “pay-to-play” donations, the people of Ontario can’t trust that wealthy donors won’t get preferential treatment from provincial cabinet ministers. So said the President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) in his presentation today to the committee studying proposed reforms to election finance rules in Ontario.

“People need to be able to trust that their democracy doesn’t come with a cover charge,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “With Bill 2, the Liberals finally came out with their promised amendments, but it’s clear that they entirely missed the points made by public presenters over the summer.

“The problem isn’t where ministers are leaning on stakeholders who want things from them, offering them special access in return for campaign cash. It’s the fact they’re doing it at all.”

Thomas referenced OPSEU’s written submission to the previous round of hearings, noting that it offered a clear way to end this conflict of interest. OPSEU has proposed preventing those who donate to political parties from benefiting from their donations through government contracts, grants, or tax breaks.

“If you donate money to a party, that party shouldn’t be sending public money back your way,” said Thomas. “It’s as simple as that. Ministers shouldn’t be using the implied promise of benefits to shake down stakeholders for donations.”

Lax fundraising rules aren’t the only problem with Bill 2, Thomas said. The bill maintains proposed restrictions on the ability of third parties to campaign on issues between elections, even when those campaigns make no mention of parties or leaders.

“The Chief Electoral Officer came before the committee and told them not to restrict issue advertising between elections,” noted Thomas. “During public hearings, presenter after presenter said the same thing. Yet despite this, the Liberals are still proposing a gag order for six months before an election that would effectively prevent communicating about any issue associated with any party.”

“How is that supposed to work when the fixed election date is in June? That means every four years a provincial budget will be introduced – and we won’t be allowed to talk about it,” he said. “For a union that represents 130,000 people whose jobs and livelihoods are directly affected by those budgets, that’s a real problem.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931