Fines, jail time await those convicted of taking illegal donations
(Written Sept. 9 for Town Crier.)
The stakes are high for both a candidate who may accept, and a corporation or union that may give an illegal campaign donation.
The Municipal Elections Act states the difference between the amount paid for a good or service and market value is considered a contribution and sincedonations from trade unions and corporations are banned in Toronto, paying anything less than market value for a good or service from a corporation or a union would be considered a breach of the act.
Individuals found guilty under the act could be fined up to $25,000 and if they knowingly contravened the act also face six months in jail. A corporation can be fined up to $50,000.
However, no charges can be laid during the election period.
The earliest an action could take place would be in March 2011 after the candidates file their campaign expenses with the city. If an elector has reason to believe that a candidate did not comply with the election rules they can ask the city for a compliance audit.
If that happens, it would go to the three-member Compliance Audit Committee to decide if an audit is warranted. If they do the an outside auditor would be hired to write a report and the committee would then decide whether to lay information charges and take the matter to court.
— Source Toronto Election Services
Point taken. I remember that. However, I still rather resent party machines at the local level. Municipal government, even with the Toronto Act that gives revised powers to the Mayor’s office, is not structured in such a way that sweeping party platforms can be adhered to or implemented. City councillors still have to look after the nitty-gritty details and concerns of constituents on a personal level. The things dealt with at local levels are far more varied and complex than can be easily labelled. On the other hand, the Mayoral level can benefit us with a city wide platform, since we look for that vision and leadership.
No more blatant union or corporate donations, but still a loophole is that people who work for political parties or unions can still be paid by their respective groups and then work as free labour on political campaigns. This is how parties like the Liberals or NDP make themselves such a big factor in municipal politics, even though we are not supposed to be seeing party politics at city hall. Still not an even field for candidates running, even with spending limits.
Ken, that’s true. But it’s not always the incumbent who gets that political party support through volunteers paid for through an employer or party. Sometimes the party wants to get someone new in as was the case when Diane Alexopoulos backed by the NDP came within 20 votes of beating Councillor Case Ootes in Toronto-Danforth’s Ward 29 in the ’06 election. And similarly, the NDP backed Helen Kennedy (NDP Federal rep Olivia Chow’s former assistant on city council) in Trinity-Spadina’s Ward 20. Kennedy was up against former CityTV journalist Adam Vaughan, who won in 2006.