Kathleen Wynne proposes ban on corporate, union donations after meeting with opposition

Premier Kathleen Wynne has proposed a ban on corporate and union donations following a discussion with opposition leaders Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath around political fundraising Monday afternoon.

Meeting comes after weeks of attacks by the opposition parties over the Liberals' fundraising practices

Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke to reporters Monday to announce details of her discussion with Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath about political fundraising reforms. (Pierre-Olivier Bernatchez/CBC)

Premier Kathleen Wynne has proposed a ban on corporate and union donations effective Jan. 1, 2017 following a discussion with Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath about political fundraising Monday afternoon.

The meeting followed weeks of attacks by the opposition parties over the Liberals' fundraising practices, including expensive and exclusive dinners for Liberal donors.

"It is clear that there are flaws in the current legislation, which all parties have been operating under," the premier said Monday. "The current system also does not meet today's public expectations."

Wynne said she plans to bring forward a seven-part piece of legislation on fundraising changes this spring, which she says she would like to see "in place or significantly underway" before the June 2018 election.

Proposed legislation

1. Changes to third-party advertising rules.

These include clarifying what constitutes a third-party advertiser, and introducing anti-collusion measures and penalties. Wynne is also proposing limiting third-party advertisers' maximum spending limits during election and pre-election periods

2. A total ban on corporate and union donations beginning at the start of 2017.

3. Lowering the maximum allowable donations to a figure in line with what is allowed at the federal level for each political party. The reduction would apply to all nomination contestants, candidates and leadership campaigns.

4. Constraining loans and loan guarantees to parties and candidates, including leadership candidates

5. Changes to by-election donation rules. These could include a rule against special doubling of donations during by-elections, and setting a limit on funds raised.

Still under consideration is what those limits should be and how to manage by-elections that take place before the new legislation is in effect?

6. An overall reduction in spending limits by central parties during election parties and introducing limits to fundraising between elections.

7. Spending limits for leadership and nomination campaigns

The legislation would be tabled in May before the legislature adjourns on June 1st and would go to a standing committee sooner than usual — after first reading. That will allow for amendments based on public input, Wynne said, before the bill goes to second reading.

More public consultation would follow the second reading and amendments would be made accordingly.

Opposition critical

Following the announcement, Ontario's opposition leaders criticized Wynne, saying the premier didn't budge from her existing position on fundraising reforms during the discussions.

The legislation announced Monday was drawn up before the meeting with Brown and Horwath.

Brown called the meeting a sham, and said it went off the rails as soon as he told Wynne the Tories would keep pressing for a public inquiry into fundraising quotas of up to $500,000 for Liberal cabinet ministers.

Wynne also rejected an NDP call to have the chief electoral officer lead the review of political financing rules, but said he would be the first called to testify about the government's proposed legislation.

She said the opposition leaders wouldn't give her any feedback on the proposed changes and instead wanted to talk about process, which she said would only delay implementation of the needed reforms.

Brown launched another attack on the Liberals' fundraising activities during Monday's question period, saying Wynne recently visited the drug manufacturer Apotex after the company donated nearly $200,000 to the Liberal Party.

"Can the premier assure us that these donations are not affecting the government's decisions," Brown asked. "If this is all smoke and it's not fire, then the premier would embrace a public inquiry."

'Donations do not buy policy decisions'

Wynne flatly rejected Brown's allegations.

"Political donations do not buy policy decisions in my government," she told the legislature. "Any innuendo or suggestion to the opposite is false."

The Liberals tried again to turn the tables on Brown, claiming he "took advantage" of the rules to raise over $1.6 million for his PC leadership campaign in 2014, and has fundraisers scheduled that charge up to $10,000 a ticket.

Veteran Liberal cabinet minister Jim Bradley reached for a Bible quote to attack Brown in question period.

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," said Bradley. "You are living, sir ... in a glass house. I advise you not to throw stones."

With files from The Canadian Press


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