Letter to Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa also calls for investigation of all ticket gifting for the event, and a ruling that gifting tickets is illegal
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 22, 2023
TORONTO – Today Democracy Watch sent a letter to Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa calling on him to investigate and rule whether gifts of a ticket to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s March 2023 “Leader’s Dinner” fundraising event given by Mr. X to a mayor and a councillor violate Ontario’s political donations law.
As CTV Toronto reported recently, John Mutton, the head of the firm Municipal Solutions, who has been identified by the media as the “Mr. X” referred to in the report on the Greenbelt decision by Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner, provided as a gift a $1,500 ticket to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party March 2023 “Premier’s Dinner” fundraising event to both Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe and Councillor Lisa Robinson, and also offered a ticket to Councillor Maurice Brenner (who refused the gift).
None of these people’s names appear in Ontario’s online registry of donations related to the contribution made to the PC Party through buying a ticket to the event. This raises questions concerning who bought the tickets, how Mr. Mutton obtained the tickets, whether Mr. Mutton offered or gave tickets to anyone else, and whether the people who actually paid for the tickets were recorded and disclosed in the online registry of donations?
This situation also raises questions about how many other people or entities that purchased tickets to the event secretly funnelled tickets to other people, including to municipal or provincial politicians, political staff or government employees?
Democracy Watch’s position is that several overlapping provisions in Ontario’s Election Finances Act (EFA) clearly prohibit buying a ticket for a fundraising event for another person who attends the event:
- whether the ticket is given by the person or entity who bought the ticket to the person who attends the event;
- or whether the ticket is given by the person or entity who bought the ticket to another person who then provides it to the person who attends the event;
- or whether the person who attends the event reimburses the person/entity who bought the ticket (unless they ensure that they are recorded as the donor by the party, and in the online registry of donors).
As section D of the letter details, the EFA contains several requirements and prohibitions intended to ensure that only individuals, using their own money, donate no more than the allowed amount to parties, riding associations, candidates and contestants, and that their identity and amount of their donations are disclosed in the online registry of provincial Political Contributions.
In other words, many provisions in the EFA prohibit so-called “straw-person” donations where a person, corporation, union or other organization funnels their money through another person to hide the fact that they are the actual donor so they can get away with violating restrictions on donations.
“Mr. X’s gift tickets to municipal politicians so they could attend the PC Party Doug Ford fundraising event raise serious questions about violations of the political donations law, and Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer should investigate not only those gifts but also how many other people secretly funnelled tickets to the event to others,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.
“If Elections Ontario doesn’t rule that it is illegal to give fundraising event tickets as a gift because it hides the identity of the actual donor and violates the law in other ways, it will open a huge loophole in the law that will effectively allow corporations, unions and other organizations to make secret donations, and for individuals to secretly funnel donations through others, and for individuals to donate more than the allowed amount,” said Conacher.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Email: [email protected]