Ontario Liberals raised $1.6M for just one byelection

The Ontario Liberal Party used a loophole in the province's campaign finance laws to amass a whopping $1.6 million during a byelection campaign in which the spending limit was $142,000, CBC News has learned.

Loophole allows donors to give more than annual limit when there's any campaign

The Ontario Liberal Party lost the byelection in Whitby-Oshawa despite Justin Trudeau's appearance at a rally. But they won in fundraising, amassing $1.6 million during the campaign in this one riding, more than half what they raised during the whole general election of 2014. (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press)

The Ontario Liberal Party used a loophole in the province's campaign finance laws to amass a whopping $1.6 million during a byelection campaign in which the spending limit was $142,000, CBC News has learned. 

The fundraising bonanza in Whitby-Oshawa was legal, but it illustrates how parties can use byelections to amass donations far exceeding the cost of the campaign, and how donors with deep pockets can give far more than Ontario's annual spending limits.

Data from Elections Ontario show the Liberals collected $1,632,625 during the campaign period for the byelection, which they lost to the Progressive Conservatives. In comparison, the Liberals collected $2.7 million in donations during the 2014 general election, contested in 107 ridings.

Each party's byelection candidate in Whitby-Oshawa was limited to spending about $142,700. That means Liberals have an extra $1.5 million in their coffers, to spend as they wish.

And a loophole allows them to go back to the same donors who supported them in Whitby-Oshawa for more money this year. 

Byelection allows donors to exceed annual limit

The maximum donation to each political party is $9,975 per person or corporation in a calendar year. However, a donor can also give $9,975 separately for each byelection.  

Fifty-one donors — mostly corporations — gave the Liberals the $9,975 maximum for the byelection campaign.

Several of those donors have already doubled down, also giving the Liberals separate, significant donations for this calendar year. CN Rail has given another $8,000, the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association another $6,000, and Colleges Ontario — which represents the province's publicly-funded colleges — has given the Liberals $6,000.

This revelation comes amid a furor over political fundraising in Ontario andpromises of reform.

The Progressive Conservatives raised $783,809 during the byelection campaign — less than half the Liberal total. Five donors donated the maximum $9,975 to the PCs. 

The NDP raised a mere $51,319, with no donor giving more than $1,330, the limit for a donation to a constituency association. 

Donors who gave maximum $9,975 to Ontario Liberal Party in Whitby-Oshawa byelection

  • Alliance of Community medical and Rehabilitation S
  • Apotex Inc.
  • Argo Development Corporation
  • Artisan Research & Communications Inc.
  • AssessNet Inc.
  • Barrick Gold Corporation
  • Bartimaeus Rehabilitation Services Inc.
  • Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association
  • Canadian Ironworkers Political Action
  • Canadian Pharmacists Association
  • Canadian Renewable Fuels Association CRFA
  • CN Rail (Canadian National Railway Company)
  • Colleges Ontario
  • Dalton Associates
  • Detour Gold Corporation
  • Egg Farmers of Ontario
  • Eisenberger, Jack
  • Falls Management Company
  • First National Financial Corporation
  • Functionability Rehabilitation services Inc.
  • Gamma Dynacare Medical Laboratories Ltd.
  • Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA)
  • Hinds, James D.
  • Huron Wind Inc.
  • Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO)
  • Iron Workers District Council of Ontario
  • Lawyers' Professional Indemnity Company (LawPRO)
  • Levy, David
  • LifeLabs Inc.
  • Longo Professional Corporation
  • Malone Given Parsons Ltd.
  • Morguard Corporation
  • Morneau Shepell Ltd.
  • Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association OECTA
  • Ontario Real Estate Association OREA
  • Pedersen, Mike BO
  • Power Workers' Union - C.L.C.
  • Respon Wealth Management Corp.
  • Rideau Carleton Raceway Holdings Ltd
  • SC Financial Investments Inc.
  • Sorbara Services Limited
  • Stoyan, Paul JAMES
  • Synoptic Medical Assessments
  • Telus Corporation
  • The Daniels Corporation
  • The Financial Advisors Association of Canada 
  • The Law Society of Upper Canada
  • The Toronto-Dominion Bank
  • United Association Canadian Political Action Fund
  • Walton Capital Management Inc.
  • Walton International Group Inc.

About the Author

Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C. Follow him on Twitter @CBCQueensPark

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