Corporate donors find their way into municipal election campaigns

A handful of companies were able to circumvent the ban on corporate and union donations in the 2018 municipal campaign by giving money to so-called third-party advertisers instead.

Corporate and union donations were banned in 2018 election, but not for 3rd-party advertisers

Jim Watson vastly outspent his opponents in the mayoral race, spending just over $400,000 in his re-election bid. (Laura Osman/CBC)

A handful of companies were able to circumvent the ban on corporate and union donations in the 2018 municipal campaign by giving money to third-party advertisers instead.

The October 2018 election was the first municipal election in which candidates were not allowed to accept contributions from corporations and unions under rules brought in by the former Liberal provincial government.

Those same rules also allowed third-party advertisers: groups that are allowed to raise money and run ads for or against a candidate. These third parties also accept donations from companies and unions.

And a few did.

Pine View Golf Course was the first of the five third-party advertisers that registered under new rules brought in for the 2018 election.

As a third-party advertiser, the golf course backed Beacon Hill-Cyrville incumbent Tim Tierney to the tune of $4,149.

Donors to Pine View included Taggart Investments, which donated $1,000, and Trinity Development Group, which contributed $1,200 — the maximum allowable. Notably, Trinity founder John Ruddy also donated $1,200 to the pro-Tierney advertiser.

David Klatt also registered as a third-party advertiser, raising $2,189, to support David Brown, the losing candidate in the Rideau-Goulbourn race. Among the donors to Klatt were two local construction companies AJL Construction LTD. and Carleton Environmental Service, who donated a combined $1,500. 

G.R. Baird Financial Group, which supported successful Kanata North candidate Jenna Sudds, raised $1,541: $1,200 came from the financial group itself, and another $341 was donated by Better Software.

Two other groups registered as third-party advertisers, but spent no money.

There will likely be more scrutiny of the third-party advertising rules, as it's the first time they've been used. It is notable, however, that both Tierney and Sudds would have been over their legal expenditure limits if the money spent on their behalf was included in the candidates' spending totals.

Incumbent Mayor Jim Watson spent $409,453 in his winning bid. His closest competitor Clive Doucet spent a mere $60,872. (CBC)

Giant discrepancy in mayoral race

Candidates from last fall's municipal election had until Friday at 2 p.m. to file their financial statements. For the first time, candidates had an additional 30-day "grace period" to file their contribution lists, as long as they pay a $500 fine to the city. 

According to Elections Ottawa, 176 of 199 candidates filed on time.

Mayor Jim Watson spent a total of $409,453 in the 2018 campaign, with more than half of the money coming from fundraising events. Although Watson had been against banning corporate and union donations, he had no trouble beating his 2014 donation total of $397,718 — when those types of contributions were allowed.

Second-place finisher Clive Doucet, who won 22 per cent of the vote compared with Watson's 71, spent a mere $60,872.

What your councillor spent to get elected

  • Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury: $42,421.
  • Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder: $40,846.
  • Kanata North Coun. Jenna Sudds: $35,467.
  • Gloucester Southgate Coun. Diane Deans: $34,206.
  • Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney: $34,107.
  • Cumberland Coun. StephenBlais: $33,553.
  • College Coun. Rick Chiarelli: $32,640.
  • Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh: $31,153.
  • Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley: $28,695.
  • Osgoode Coun. George Darouze: $26,589.
  • Capital Coun. Shawn Menard: $26,047.
  • Alta Vista Coun. Jean Cloutier: $24,645.
  • Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper: $24,629.
  • Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt: $24,185.
  • Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney: $23,506.
  • Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan: $22,993.
  • West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry: $19,994.
  • Innes Coun. Laura Dudas: $19,229.
  • River Coun. Riley Brockington: $19,072.
  • Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum: $17,677.
  • Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower: $17,198.
  • Orléans Coun. Matt Luloff: $15,259.
  • Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli: $12,129.