The City of Toronto has a program to reimburse political donors up to 75 per cent of their contributions to candidates. The donors can come from anywhere in Ontario.
This program will be put to use in Mayor Rob Ford's upcoming campaign fundraiser, which will be held outside the city limits at a banquet hall in Vaughan. The fundraiser is being hosted by some local business owners, according to the mayor's brother Coun. Doug Ford, who is managing the mayor’s campaign.
The outlying areas of Toronto are fertile ground for Ford Nation.
An analysis by social geographer Trevor McKenzie-Smith for Press Progress, a project of the Ottawa-based Broadbent Institute, indicates that Ford raised $623,000 from donors outside the city during the 2010 municipal campaign — more than a third of all his donations.
Tickets for the Vaughan fundraiser go for $300. Donors, including those who live outside Toronto and those who can’t vote in Toronto, will be eligible for a 75 per cent rebate. That amounts to $225 on each ticket.
The rebate is paid by the City Of Toronto.
"It is odd," says municipal law expert John Mascarin. "My first reaction was: this can't be quite right."
Mascarin says the city is one of the few municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area that reimburses political donations to people who don't live, pay taxes or vote in the city.
In Toronto, the main restriction is that donors who are eligible for rebates must live in Ontario and the candidate must register for the program.
Markham has a similar program to Toronto. In Oakville and in Vaughan, rebates are limited to donors from within those cities. Mississauga voted last year to cancel its rebate program.
"Some municipalities have put in residency requirements," says Mascarin. "They will provide a rebate to you, only if you're an elector in that particular municipality. Toronto is not like that."
Rebate program is 17 years old
The rebate program in Toronto has been around since 1997.
In July, Ford's executive committee, then city council, approved a plan to boost funding for the rebate program.
Mayor Ford defended the expense. "We've always done it," said the mayor.
Asked Wednesday about the rebate program, Coun. Ford, said that in the last campaign many candidates received donations from outside the city.
He said a significant amount of money flows from the suburbs to the city and compared stopping the rebate program to putting up road tolls.
Several other mayoral candidates — Olivia Chow, Karen Stintz and John Tory — say they have not planned any fundraisers outside Toronto.
The city has estimated that it will pay out $4.8 million in rebates for this election. The full cost will not be known until next year, after all of the election accounting is complete.