Ontario Moving Ahead with Changes to Political Financing Rules

Today, the Ontario Liberal Government introduced legislation that would drastically reform electoral financing rules in the Province. After weeks of facing media reports and inquires by the Opposition Parties about current fundraising practices, the Government is responding with a Bill that would make substantial changes to the status quo.

If passed into law, the legislation would create new rules for contributions and donations to Ontario political parties, election candidates, as well as for political advertising and electoral nomination contestant financing.  Highlights of the proposed rule updates include:

  • Banning donations and loan guarantees by all corporations and unions.
  • Capping the amount of money that third parties can spend on political advertising, and introducing strict anti-collusion measures:
    • Note that there is currently no limit on third party spending.  The new rules would allow third parties to spend no more than $100,000 on advertising during an election period and no more than $600,000 during the six months before a scheduled general election.
  • Placing new limits on the amount of money individuals can donate to a political party, candidate, constituency association, nomination contestant, or leadership contestant:
    • Currently, individuals can donate a maximum of $9,975 to each party annually and during an election period.  The new rules will cap that amount at a maximum of $1,550; and
    • Currently, individuals can donate a maximum of $6,650 to the candidates of a party during an election period, with a cap of $1,330 per candidate.  The new rules would cap the maximum total donation at $3,100, but increase the per candidate maximum to $1550.
  • Creating a per-vote allowance for political parties based on the number of votes that each party receives in the previous general election:
    • In the first year that the new rules are in place, parties would receive public funding of $2.26 for every vote received in the previous general election, if they garner over two per cent of public support.  Subsequently, the subsidy would be reduced over a five-year period, at the end of which the subsidy policy would be reviewed.

During the lead-up to the announcement of these proposed changes, Premier Wynne met with both Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. The NDP has publically criticized the fact that these proposed changes were developed with no public consultation and in haste. However, in an effort to gain public support and ease any criticism of the drastic changes, the Government announced that extensive public consultation hearings on the Bill will be conducted immediately after it is introduced (referred to as First Reading) in the Legislative Assembly. Typically, a Bill is debated in the Assembly (referred to as Second Reading) by MPPs prior to being sent to a Committee for public consultations.

The schedule for hearings has not been released yet, but the Government said they will occur across the Province over the course of the summer. The Government’s intent is to have these proposed rule changes take effect on January 1, 2017, in the lead-up to the next Ontario election

News Release: New Draft Electoral Financing Rules

Backgrounder: Proposed Election Finances Statute Law Amendment Act

Compendium: Election Finances Statute Law Amendment Act

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