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New report on possibly funneled donations to Trudeau Liberals shows need to lower donation limit to $100, as Quebec did

Elections Canada must expand the audit it promised in 2013 (which it didn’t do) to cover donations to all parties and riding associations back to 2007 (similar to the audit Elections Quebec did in 2011)

Almost 90,000 call for changes to stop the unethical influence of big money in federal politics, finally

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, after a new report revealed that the Trudeau Liberals have received almost $1.5 million in donations from staff, executives and lobbyists at more than 110 companies, law and accounting firms and interest groups since 2015, Democracy Watch and the Money in Politics Coalition, joined by almost 90,000 voters, called on federal parties to pass a short, simple bill before Parliament closes at the end of June to lower the donation limit to $100 (as Quebec did in 2013).

The Trudeau Liberals’ Bill C-76, which became law last December, did nothing to stop big money in federal politics, and actually made things worse by more than doubling the amount that third-party interest groups can spend during elections. To see details, click here.

Democracy Watch also re-affirmed the request it sent recently to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, Commissioner of Canada Elections, and Commissioner of Lobbying calling for an audit of individual donations to federal political parties back to 2007 to find all possibly funneled donations, and any lobbyist fundraisers. Elections Canada has not even done the limited donations audit it promised to do in 2013.

“This new report, and the many examples across Canada of companies funneling donations through their executives or employees, or having their board members fundraise for political parties, show clearly that the only way to stop the unethical influence of big money in politics is to stop big money donations by lowering the donation limit to $100 as Quebec did in 2013,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As well, a full audit by Canada’s election and lobbying watchdogs is needed to determine just how much funneling of donations to federal political parties has happened since 2007. Elections Canada should have been doing annual audits since then – it hasn’t even done the one audit it promised to do in 2013.”

Along with the donations revealed in the Bloc Quebecois’ new report, the following situations point to clear problems the current federal donation and fundraising system:

  1. SNC-Lavalin illegally funneled almost $118,000 to the Liberal and Conservative parties, riding associations and candidates through its executives and employees from 2004 to 2011, with CBC recently revealing the list of donors;
  2. As the Globe and Mail revealed, lobbyists attended approximately 90 high-priced, exclusive events the Liberals held from January to October 2016, and another 72 events held since April 2017;
  3. The Liberals also offered special access to “bundler” fundraisers;
  4. Clearwater Seafoods lobbies the federal government, and board member Mickey MacDonald held a fundraising event in August 2014 that raised about $80,000 for the Liberal Party, an event Justin Trudeau attended.
  5. Apotex Inc. lobbied the federal government at the time its then-Chair Barry Sherman held a fundraising event in August 2015 that raised about $150,000 for the Liberal Party, an event Justin Trudeau also attended.

Democracy Watch’s research also shows that the Liberal Party (and likely other federal parties) rely on wealthy donors for a significant portion of total donations. Top federal Liberal Party donors (to the Party only, not its riding associations) who gave $1,100 or more in 2015 were only 4.37% of total donors (4,084 donors out of 93,426 donors total) but they gave the Party 22.87% of total donations raised ($4,866,373.76 out of the $21,276,897.57 total raised).

The following situations at the provincial and municipal level provide further evidence that funneling donations happens in every jurisdiction that has banned donations from companies, unions and other organizations but continued to allow individuals to donate a high amount:

  1. An Elections Quebec audit found $12.8 million in likely illegally funneled donations from 2006-2011.
  2. A recent CBC analysis found New Brunswick company executives and their families now donating the maximum after the province banned corporate and union donations.
  3. In B.C. in 2017, provincial parties returned more than $260,000 in donations that had been funneled through lobbyists for companies, and people affiliated with unions.
  4. In Ontario, lobbyists sold tickets for Premier Ford’s recent fundraising dinner and, in 2016, executives at a bank involved in bidding on a government contract organized a fundraising event for the ruling party that was attended by Liberal Cabinet ministers.
  5. When Elections Alberta did an audit in 2012 it found dozens of illegal donations. As well, in a 2013 scandal in Alberta, a coalition of construction companies made it clear that their big money donations were conditional on the Alberta government changing the labour law.
  6. Donations from corporations, unions and other organizations were banned in Toronto elections in 2009, and individual donations limited to $750 annually, but a 2016 analysis by the Toronto Star found that big business and other special interest group executives and their families continue to give large amounts to city councillors.

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

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign page and Government Ethics Campaign page