Wynne agrees to meet opposition leaders on fundraising reform
Premier says she's 'committed to phasing out corporate and union donations to political parties'
Premier Kathleen Wynne has agreed to meet this week with Ontario's opposition leaders to talk about reforming the province's political fundraising rules.
After a week of intense criticism over fundraising quotas for Liberal cabinet ministers, Wynne sent a letter on Sunday to Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath saying she wants their input on finance reform.
"I am committed to phasing out corporate and union donations to political parties and reducing the amount that individuals can donate," she wrote.
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"My government remains committed to enhancing the integrity of the election finance system and protecting the public interest."
Wynne also said she would give the Tories and New Democrats time to come up with their own suggestions before the new rules are drafted.
The question now becomes how are we going to finance our democratic process.- Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath
"After we meet, and once you are able to consult within your parties, I am very interested to receive your formal input on a responsible way forward to reform the current system, including your ideas on legislative and non-legislative mechanisms we could use to develop recommendations to assist us in making these important reforms," she added.
The premier's letter came after both opposition leaders said they don't want the governing Liberals coming up with new political financing rules on their own.
"It's time to put an end to the undue influence of big money in Ontario," Horwath said in a statement Sunday reacting to Wynne's open letter.
"We are looking forward to the meeting, and are hopeful we can begin mapping out a process that engages all political parties and broader civil society."
Wynne denies accusations
Brown welcomed Wynne's offer of a meeting in a statement Sunday, and repeated his request for a legislative committee to examine the issue.
"We hope she'll agree to strike a select committee with equal representation from all parties, where all deputations and consultations are made in public and not behind closed doors," wrote Brown.
Wynne denies accusations that lobbyists are buying access to her and Liberal cabinet ministers at expensive and exclusive dinners and receptions, but promises to come up with new rules by this fall.
However, she said there will have to be a phase-in period, so not all the proposed changes to the political fundraising rules will be implemented before the next election in 2018.
Wynne said she wants to follow the federal model and phase out corporate and union donations and reduce the amount individuals can contribute to parties and candidates, but she hasn't said if Ontario taxpayers would subsidize parties under the new rules.
"The question now becomes how are we going to finance our democratic process," said Horwath.
Federal contribution rules allow individuals to contribute a maximum of $1,525 to each party annually, plus another $1,525 in total to all the registered associations and candidates of each party.
In Ontario, individuals, companies and unions can donate $9,775 to a party each year, another $9,975 to the party for each campaign period, plus $6,650 annually to constituency associations of any one party. They can also donate $6,650 to candidates of any one party in a campaign, but no more than $1,330 to a single candidate.
Ontario also has no limits on contributions to political leadership candidates. Former Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Christine Elliott received a single donation of $100,000 in 2014.