Men received majority of corporate donations in 2014 Waterloo Region election

An analysis by CBC News has revealed that male candidates were the primary recipients of corporate and union donations in the 2014 Region of Waterloo elections, receiving two to four times more money than their female counterparts.

Men and women approach fundraising differently, suggests Karen Scian

There are 16 members of the Region of Waterloo council: eight directly elected councillors, one directly elected chair and the mayors of the seven municipalities. They are (from back left) councillors Joe Nowak, Doug Craig, Dave Jaworsky, Sandy Shantz, Sean Strickland, Karl Kiefer, Helen Jowett, Geoff Lorentz and Elizabeth Clarke (from front left) councillors Jane Mitchell, Berry Vrbanovic, Sue Foxton, regional chair Ken Seiling, councillors Tom Galloway, Karen Redman and Les Armstrong (Region of Waterloo)

An analysis by CBC News has revealed that male candidates were the primary recipients of corporate and union donations in the 2014 Region of Waterloo council elections, receiving two to four times more money than their female counterparts. 

The numbers come from financial statements filed by the candidates with the Region of Waterloo. 

Those statements show that all five candidates who received more than $10,000 in corporate and union monetary donations were men in the 2014 election.

The Ontario Government announced this week that it was prepared to ban all corporate and union donations in municipal and school board trustee elections, saying the move would create a more even playing field for candidates. 

Who got how much?

At the top of the list of corporate and union donations: Sean Strickland, who received $23,650. Of those donations, 25 donors were unions and 13 were corporations. 

On the other side of the gender divide, of the five women who ran for Region of Waterloo councilors seats, none received corporate donations that exceeded a total of $5,200 and each had 10 or fewer corporate or union donors.

A recent report by Campaign Fairness Ontario, published in April, warns of the prevalence and influence of corporate donations on municipal politics. 

According to their report, which examined donations made to candidates in Lake Simcoe, candidates taking contributions from the development industry were twice as likely to be elected as those who did not report such contributions.

Why do women raise less corporate money?

The discrepancy between the genders can be explained by the different ways women and men approach fundraising, suggests Karen Scian, who ran unsuccessfully for a regional council seat in 2014. Before that Scian was Waterloo city Waterloo city councillor for two terms. 

"Women don't like asking for money," said Scian. "It's not an easy thing, to ask for money, period. And then you just don't have access to those larger pots of funds."

"In my own experience, and what I've observed across the board is that female candidates are disadvantaged," said Scian. "They don't have access to those big pots of money that you might find in corporations and through long term connections in the business world."

Instead, she says, women tend to resort to a more grassroots approach. 

"They'll get donations from family, they'll get donations from citizens and they will self-fund."

She says that eliminating corporate and union donations from municipal election campaigns will remove a significant barrier, not just for women but for citizen candidates who want to run for office.

"Because it's not just women, it's people who really feel they have a voice to be heard but they don't, perhaps, have financial backing."

The proposed changes were presented at a provincial committee on Thursday and included in Bill 181, the Municipal Elections Modernization Act. 


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