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2021 donations show Ford PC Party supported most by wealthy donors – Ford made Ontario political finance system more undemocratic

Other main parties’ top donors also provided too-high amount of funding

Ford doubled donation limit in spring 2021, allowing wealthy donors to buy even more influence over parties and politicians, especially Ford’s PC Party

To make system democratic and ethical, donations and loans should be limited to $100 annually (as in Quebec) and per-vote funding should be reviewed to prove it is needed

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released its analysis showing that the Doug Ford PC Party’s doubling of Ontario’s political donation limit in spring 2021 (to $3,300 annually) has made the system even more undemocratic, especially because the PC Party is supported more now by wealthy donors than they were before, and more than the other three parties.

According to preliminary data from Elections Ontario’s donations database, in 2021 Ford’s PC Party received 63% of its donations from only 25% of donors who each donated $1,000 or more. In 2020 the amounts were lower, as the PCs received almost 50% of their donations from only 20% of their donors who each donated $1,000 or more.

The other main parties’ top 2021 donors also provided disproportionate amount of funding, and much higher amounts than in 2020. The Ontario Liberals received almost 50% of their donations from only 8% of their donors who donated $1,000 or more (in 2020 the figures were 15% and 5%); the Greens received 51% of their total from only 21.4% of their donors who each donated $1,000 or more (in 2020 the figures were 14.5% and 2.8%). The NDP received 30% of their total donations from only 2.7% of their donors (in 2020 the figures were 8% and 1.5%).

The Ford government’s Bill 254, enacted in May 2021, doubled the annual donation limit, which has allowed wealthy donors to buy even more unethical influence over parties and politicians, including by having business executives and their family members all make donations.

“Ontario’s undemocratic, unethical donation limit is much higher than the average voter can afford and the parties are relying on wealthy donors for a lot of the money they raise, which gives those wealthy donors unethical influence over the parties,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Money in Politics Coalition. “The Ford PC Party’s doubling of the donation limit has created a pay to play, cash-for-access system that allows wealthy donors to buy even more unethical influence over parties and politicians.”

Based on the donation patterns in 2020, Democracy Watch and the Money in Politics Coalition (made up of 50 groups with a total of more than 3 million members), joined by thousands of Ontario voters who support the call for these changes, called on Ontario’s political parties to make the following changes to get big money out of Ontario politics finally:

  1. set an individual donation limit of $100 per year (as in Quebec);
  2. set a limit of what candidates can give to their own campaign of $100 per year;
  3. prohibit loans to parties except from a public fund;
  4. review the per-vote annual public funding and, if the parties can actually prove they need it, set it at most $1 per vote (and instead use annual donation-matching public funding if parties prove it is needed as that is a better system), and;
  5. strengthen enforcement and penalties for violations.

Democracy Watch also called on Elections Ontario to conduct an audit to ensure that businesses are not funneling donations through their executives and family members, and to ensure that lobbyists are not holding fundraising events to be “bundlers” of donations as a way of having undue influence over parties or politicians.

To see a summary of donation funneling scandals across Canada, click here.

“Ontario’s too-high donation limit is also likely encouraging funneling of donations from businesses through their executives and employees and their families, and bundling of donations by lobbyists, both of which happened in Quebec and at the federal level, and Elections Ontario must conduct an audit to ensure these things are not happening,” said Conacher.

Years of experience and scandals across Canada show clearly that setting a donation limit that allows individuals to donate more than $1,000 each year allows the unethical influence of big money donations, and cash-for-access fundraising schemes, to continue.

“As donation scandals across Canada show clearly, the only way to stop the unethical, undemocratic influence of money in Ontario politics is to stop big money donations by allowing only individuals to donate only $100 a year,” said Conacher.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign