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Elections Ontario letting parties, candidates, ridings, contestants hide whether lobbyists hold fundraising events for them

Elections Ontario claims requirement to disclose “location” of an event only means the town or city – email exchange shows agencies’ twisted logic and its own violation of Ontario’s election finances law

Liberals and NDP disclose address of event, PC Party often keeps it secret

October 10, 2023

TORONTO – Today Democracy Watch revealed the email exchange it had recently with Kevin Thomas, Elections Ontario’s Manager of Compliance Enforcement, in which he confirmed the agency is letting parties, especially Premier Ford’s PC Party, hide whether lobbyists are holding fundraising events for them. This violates the Ontario’s Elections Finances Act (EFAss. 23(5) and (6)) which requires that parties, riding associations, candidates, nomination and party leadership contestants disclose the exact location of fundraising events.

The public, and Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner, need to know the exact location of events because if a lobbyist or anyone connected to any business or organization that lobbies any MPP or Cabinet minister or Ontario government department holds a fundraising event, it could create a conflict of interest that would mean restrictions on lobbying. Lobbyists are prohibited under Ontario’s Lobbyists Registration Act (s. 3.4) from putting a politician or government official in a real or potential conflict of interest.

Democracy Watch’s analysis, set out in the exchange of emails, shows that the Progressive Conservative Party in 2019 usually disclosed the exact location/address of fundraising events, but in the past few years often only discloses the town/city. The Liberal Party and NDP still disclose the exact address almost all of the time. The Green Party did not have any fundraising events on its website.

The word “location” is defined in the dictionary, including Black’s Law Dictionary, as a specific property. Mr. Thomas claims in his emails that Elections Ontario has since 2016 defined “location” in a directive to parties etc. as only meaning the town or city of the event. Mr. Thomas says in his emails that Elections Ontario refuses to disclose the directive, or the legal opinion that is the basis of the directive.

The EFA (clause 2(1)(k)) requires Elections Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa to publish all guidelines he issues to parties etc. (under clause 2(1)(j)) in the Ontario Gazette and on Elections Ontario’s website. Given Mr. Thomas claims that a directive was issued to parties etc. years ago concerning the definition of the word “location”, the directive should have been on Elections Ontario’s website for the past several years, and also should have been published in the Gazette.

The directive has not been published in the Gazette, and the word “location” is not defined in any of the guides Elections Ontario has published for Chief Financial Officers (known as a “CFO Handbook” – to see the handbooks, click here and follow the links).

Mr. Thomas claims in his emails that Elections Ontario will, finally, include the definition in its next version of the guides to be published in the new year.

For no good reason, and in violation of the legal requirement to notify the public, Elections Ontario and the Chief Electoral Officer has been secretly allowing parties, riding associations, candidates and contestants to hide whether lobbyists are holding fundraising events for them, which hides conflicts of interest that undermine the integrity of provincial policy-making processes,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“Elections Ontario must immediately change its position and require parties, riding associations, candidates and contestants to disclose whether lobbyists are holding fundraising events for them so that the public, and Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner, is notified every time a lobbyist is trying to buy influence over politicians by raising money for them,” 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, Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Secret, Unethical Lobbying Campaign