Toronto votes to eliminate this type of election funding
Heated debate results in 29-12 vote for reforms
By Kris Scheuer
(Written Dec. 3 for Town Crier.)
It is either a large democratic step forward or a huge setback that will make it less apparent who’s funding local politicians campaigns.
Those two polarized opinions dominated an all day debate when city council voted to ban corporate and union election campaign contributions.
The decision means all candidates running for city council will have to get their funding from individuals only in next year’s election.
Mayor David Miller was able to raise over $1 million in the 2006 election solely through individuals and he pushed council to vote for finance reforms.
“I know there are different views in respect to corporate and union donations. With respect to those who think we should maintain that practise, I say it’s out of date,” Miller said during the heated debate.
Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone said this was about the notion of undue influence that these donations have on how politicians vote.
“There is a perception out there whether we like it or not that unions and corporations are running the world and running this city,” Pantalone said.
“That perception doesn’t help residents or individuals in this city to feel that they have a voice and therefore alienates them from participating in the democratic process by contributing (funds), canvassing or even by voting.”
Some councillors argued it will be harder to run for public office without access to funds from businesses and unions.
But that is a small price to pay, Pantalone argued.
“Democracy is much more important than the ease of collecting funds from corporations and unions,” he said.
Veteran politician Howard Moscoe argued banning these donations won’t stop a CEO from donating in his own name. The only difference will be now when a company boss contributes it won’t be under the corporation’s name and thus the connection will be less apparent.
“If you accept that corporate contributions buy influence then this policy will mean the money is still there. The interest is still there but it will be less transparent,” said Moscoe.
He pulled out a 2006 election list of some of Mayor Miller’s individual contributors, who head up influential companies. But unless you do the research you would not know they run company XYZ.
The two leads on this issue for about seven years have been Midtown councillors Michael Walker and Cliff Jenkins.
After the debate Walker said, “I think we will have a whole new group of candidates that will put themselves forth to run and we will look at a much more citizen orientated council in the next term than we have right now.”
In the end, the vote was 29-12 to ban this type of campaign funding.
Walker said he thought they had the votes to win but some of that support looked to be wavering throughout the day.
“You go into depressions for an hour then you’d get a high (moment in the debate) and you wonder if you have been taking something. But we never inhale here at city hall,” Walker joked.
Councillor Jenkins said, “It is very easy for candidates to get money from corporate interests…so now candidates have to do a lot of (fundraising) work in places where they haven’t done that work.”
York University political professor Robert MacDermid has advocated for these policy reforms through his research on the issue and the website www.votetoronto.com that tracks political contributions.
He was elated the reforms passed after nearly a decade of debate on the issue.
“It’s been a long battle and we are all thankful it has ended in this way,” said MacDermid. “It’s the first step to get rid of this kind of influence.”
“I believe these politicians can win without corporate money. It’s also important experience that we make politicians go out and meet people and ask for a dollar and proof that they have represented them.”
For a look at how politicians voted, see below.
Source: City of Toronto
YES to ban corporate and union donations in elections
Councillors: Paul Ainslie, Brian Ashton, Sandra Bussin, Shelley Carroll, Raymond Cho, Janet Davis, Glenn De Baeremaeker, John Filion, Paula Fletcher, Rob Ford, Adam Giambrone, Adrian Heaps, Dough Holyday, Cliff Jenkins, Chin Lee, Pam McConnell, Joe Mihevc, Peter Milczyn, Mayor David Miller, Ron Moeser, Francis Nunziata Cesar Palacio, Joe Pantalone, Gord Perks, Bill Saundercook, Karen Stintz, Michael Thompson, Adam Vaughan and Michael Walker.
NO against these election finance reforms
Councillor: Maria Augimeri, Mike Del Grande, Frank Di Giorgio, Suzan Hall, Norm Kelly, Gloria Lindsay Luby, Giorgio Mammoliti, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Howard Moscoe, Case Ootes, John Parker and Anthony Perruzza.