Follow the Money
 
2011-10-04 20:27:12
Related topics : Follow the Money

Funding Ontario Political Parties: 2004 to 2011

Contents

Executive summary. 2

The Data. 5

Background to campaign and party finance reforms during the Liberal administration. 5

Where did the money come from?. 8

Economic Sectors. 11

Contributions from the Tobacco Industry. 15

Contributions from Individuals. 15

Contributions from Corporations. 17

Contributions from Conglomerates. 20

Contributions from Unions. 22

Contributions from Public Sector Organizations. 24

The Reforms We Need. 25

Executive summary

  • The data used in this paper comes from the Annual Reports of the Chief Election Officer of Ontario and from Elections Ontario’s web-posted data files of disclosed contributions, those greater than $100, at all contribution periods and to all party and constituency associations of the three major parties between 2004 and August 29, 2011.[i] 
  • Reforms to political finance regulation during the last two Liberal administrations have made parties more dependent on large contributions from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals. Rather than reforming the system as the Liberals promised in 2003, they have made it more secretive, raised both contribution and expenditure limits by 24 percent and increased the influence of a small number of large contributors.
  • Third party campaign rules enacted by the Liberals are so ineffectual that they are pointless.  Third parties can spend as much as they want, take contributions as large as they want and keep their financial backers hidden until long after the campaign is over.
  • The main Liberal political finance reform, real-time disclosure of contributions, in some years disclosed just 20 percent of all of the contributions made to parties.
  •  Ontario’s three major parties raised and spent more than $162 million dollars between 2004 and the end of August, 2011. Corporations contributed $64 million or 39.4 percent of the total, unions gave just over 5 percent and individuals contributed the balance of 56 percent. 
  • Almost fifty percent of the $72 million raised by the Liberals came from corporations.
  • Contributions from developers and the wider development industry were the largest component of corporate contributions to the Liberals and Conservatives.
  • The Liberals and Conservatives reported contributions from the tobacco industry.
  • Research in Motion’s co-CEOs and their spouses were the biggest individual contributors to the Liberal party. Property developers, corporate owners and financiers populated the lists of Conservative and Liberal top contributors.
  • Top corporate contributors included the chartered banks, property developers and energy producers.
  • The Liberal party received more contributions from unions than did the NDP over this seven and a half year period.  Union contributions are about 14 percent of the total corporate contributions but some unions and their locals gave huge sums.  The Carpenters union gave to the Liberals almost $900,000 through its multiple locals while the Steelworkers gave $1.1 million to the NDP.  
  • Despite frequent scandals, the Liberal and Conservative parties continue to accept contributions from public sector organizations such as hospitals, colleges, universities and other public sector institutions.
  • Reforms that remove the influence of corporate and union contributions and open up the political finance system to more scrutiny are badly needed.  There are many examples of  citizen-centred reforms for Ontario to follow.

Introduction

Voters need to know who funds the political parties and candidates who are promising to represent them.  Through the confusion of policy platforms, debates, attack ads, promises, and facts and numbers without contexts, the knowledge of who has given money to a party or candidate can tell a voter a great deal about a party’s friends, who has the party leader’s ear, what they might be saying and the policy directions of the party and province . But Ontario’s political finance laws, an accretion of rule changes by mostly Liberal and Conservative governments, have made it  difficult to build the kind of picture that voters would find useful.

On the rare occasions when Canadians are surveyed about political finance issues, they demonstrate an astute understanding of the role of money in democratic politics.   In 2008, the Canadian Election Study contained a group of questions sponsored by Elections Canada that explored a number of political finance issues. The report found that  ”the majority of respondents (77%) agreed with this ban, (on contributions from corporations and unions) while 7% were against it.”  The report also found that “almost all electors (96%) felt that the public has a right to know where political parties, candidates and local associations get their money.  Most of the respondents (87 percent) also said that it was important for them to know where parties, candidates and local associations get their money.”[ii]

Ontario needs political finance reform if we are to create citizen-centered democratic politics. The Liberals promised reforms in 2003 but they have not delivered them.  If anything,  parties and candidates  are more dependent on the wealthy and corporations to fund politics.  Citizens appear to understand that making parties rely on small contributions from voters is the best way to create a politics freer of undue influence and corruption.  In 2006 and 2008, Elections Canada asked a representative sample of citizens if “Political parties are too influenced by people who have a lot of money.”  Seventy-three percent of respondents totally or somewhat  agreed with the statement in 2008 and 77 percent in 2006 [iii]

The first step to reform is revealing the state of political finance in Ontario since the Liberals first took office.

The Data

The data used in this paper comes from the Annual Reports of the Chief Election Officer of Ontario and from Elections Ontario’s web-posted data files of disclosed contributions, those greater than $100, at all contribution periods and to all party and constituency associations between 2004 and August 29, 2011.[iv]  These files contain the contributor’s name as recorded by the party and the amount of the contribution.

Background to campaign and party finance reforms during the Liberal administration

In their victorious 2003 election campaign, the Liberals made a number of pointed criticisms of how the Conservatives had changed the campaign and party finance laws.  “The Harris-Eves government gave money too much influence and citizens too little,” and they promised to “give you power over the role of money in politics, by asking you to set strict limits on the amounts political parties can raise and spend. We will put the public interest ahead of special interests.”[v]  The 2003 platform promised to appoint a Citizens’ Jury to set spending and contribution limits as well as real-time disclosure of campaign contributions.

Eight years later, most of this campaign and party finance agenda is unrealized.  The Citizens’ Jury, an unusually adventurous idea in an area where the governing party likes to write the rules to their own advantage, never happened.  The limits on contributions and spending went up rather than down and while some real-time disclosure of contributions has been implemented, it usually covers far less than half of the money pouring into parties.

The partial implementation of real-time disclosure of contributions, the posting on Elections Ontario’s website of contributions to the central parties within ten business days of their receipt, has somewhat improved disclosure.  However the real-time disclosure rules apply only to annual contributions to the central parties. They do not apply to money given to constituency associations during the year or any other money raised by parties and candidates during general or by-elections.   So for example, in 2007, the year of a general election and a by-election, a year in which the parties raised a combined $40.6 million, just 20.4 percent of those contributions were subject to real-time disclosure and the rest of contributors names and contribution totals was not disclosed until months later.  At best, the real-time disclosure rule applied to 70 percent of contributions in 2008, the only year in this period without a by-election and the only year in which disclosure exceeded 50 percent of funds raised.

The real-time disclosure rule has also helped remove Ontario party finance issues from the media – an agreeable outcome for parties who seldom wish to discuss who funds them.  Prior to the real-time disclosure rule, party fundraising figures were released in early June and were always the subject of media reports and comment. 

As part of the 2005 reforms that brought in real-time disclosure, the Liberals also settled the issue of the disclosure of contributors’ addresses on the internet.  But they settled it in favour of greater secrecy.  Elections Ontario had argued that privacy laws prevented this information being made available on the web even though it is mandated by the Election Finances Act and is available on paper copies.  While this appears to have become the standard position in Canadian political finance, it is important to point out how secretive this appears in relation to US campaign finance law where a contributor’s, name, address, occupation and employer are posted promptly on the Federal Election Commission website and those interested are able to see the connections between individuals and corporations.

In 2007, the Liberals created rules to govern third party spending, campaign expenditures during election campaigns by groups that are not parties.  However, the rules are ineffectual at best.  The law placed no limits on either the size of contributions to third parties or on their expenditures. The only advance was the requirement to register and reveal contributors, information only available long after the campaign is over.   Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have been beneficiaries of this kind of spending.  The Liberals in particular, have benefited from third party spending in the 2011 election as they did in 2007 when  $1.1 million was spent on mostly anti-Conservative advertising by the Working Families Coalition, a group of unions that ran TV ads opposing Conservative policies.  The Harris  Conservatives benefited from similar third party advertising run in 1999 by the Coalition for a Better Ontario.

Canadian Federal election third party rules are much more restrictive than Ontario’s version, placing very tight limits on spending  ($188,000).  

In 2009, the Liberals changed the corporate political contribution tax credit rebate enshrining a maximum rebate for corporations that is more than twice the size of that for individuals, $2,604 vs $1,240.  The political contribution tax rebate that gives back to individuals and corporations a significant portion of smaller contributions makes up a large component of the total, though unobserved, money going to parties. Corporations already have special clauses that relate to their use of the tax credit one of which allows them to carry forward unused credits for up to 20 years.   This further state subsidization of corporate political contributions is another step back from the promises made in the 2003 Liberal platform.

Rather than submitting political finance regulation to a Citizen Jury, where, if infrequent polls are any indication, citizens would have opted to ban corporate contributions and constrain spending, the Liberals tied the contribution and expenditure limits to an indexation factor thus avoiding the need to debate future increases.  The result is that between 2003 and 2011 the limits increased twice and by 24 percent over the period.  The average Ontario wage, something that better reflects the ability of ordinary citizens to contribute to a party, has budged hardly at all over this period, so increases really benefited corporations and those able to make large contributions.    The Liberals also raised campaign expenditure limits by a similar 24 percent , thereby increasing their advertising budgets and the use of marketing techniques in political campaigns.

Ontario has a system of contribution limits that can be multiplied whenever a by-election or general election occurs.  While the limit is quoted as $15,500, the real limit when contribution periods are multiplied as they were in 2010, a year of two by-elections, was $36,580, an unimaginably high figure for anyone but corporations and the very wealthy.  Over the years from 2004 to 2010, the limits would have allowed a contribution total of $214,280. As Table 2 below shows, no individual gave even half this amount to a party.  In only two years, 2007 and 2008, only individuals did contributed the maximum allowable to the Conservative party:  John A Tory on his own in 2008 and in addition to his spouse Elizabeth Tory, in 2007. They are the parents of then Conservative leader John H Tory.  For all the other tens of thousands of individuals contributing to parties, the limit was irrelevant.   

If the limits are so high as to be no limitation on individuals, they are meaningless for corporate or union contributors. Those individuals who control those entities can contribute through enough subsidiary or associated corporations or union locals to far exceed the limit imposed on single individuals.  But throughout these years, it was rare for a single company to give as much as the limit allowed in a single year.  Sentry Select Capital gave the Conservatives more than the limit allowed  in 2006 and one assumes that Elections Ontario made the party refund the excess.   The developer Mattamy approached the limit in a couple of years.  On the other hand, several corporate conglomerates exceeded both the total limits for the seven year period as well as the annual limits.  Toronto Dominion, CIBC, the Bank of Montreal all gave amounts through several of their companies that in total exceeded annual limits and, as Table 3 shows, Toronto Dominion was able to exceed the seven year  limit as well.     Other conglomerates like EllisDon and those companies controlled by developer Mario Cortellucci, gave seven year totals that far exceeded the limits on individuals or single corporate entities.  Aggregated contributions from locals of the same unions in some cases exceeded the combined seven year limit by as much as three or four times. 

If the Liberals had been serious about limiting the influence of money in elections they could have banned corporate and union contributions, something they permitted the City of Toronto to do.  Failing that, they could have reformed the Election Finances Act to include the associated corporations clause from the Municipal Elections Act.  It prohibits associated corporations, where “associated” means they are owned or controlled by the same individuals or corporation, from making political contributions.  Even though association is virtually impossible to prove outside a courtroom, the rule would constitute some sort of limitation on the wealthy who control multiple companies and citizens have used the Municipal Elections Act clause to challenge and highlight developers’ control over municipal politics.

Where did the money come from?

Provincial political parties may accept contributions from a person normally resident in Ontario, though not necessarily a Canadian citizen, a corporation, though not a registered charity, and a union.  The table below breaks down contributors to the three parties between 2004 and 2011 according to the classes of contributors.

 

Table 1.  Contributions sources 2004 to August 2011

 

PC

Liberal

NDP

Developers

17.7

12.2

1.1

Development related companies

14.6

13.5

1.6

Pharmaceuticals

2.5

3.4

0.3

Other medical

2.0

2.5

0.3

Financial

6.9

4.8

3.0

Chartered banks

2.6

2.3

6.5

Public relations

2.1

3.4

1.6

Associations

9.4

11.2

27.7

Energy

3.1

4.2

5.9

Mining

1.3

1.0

0.5

Auto industry

1.4

1.5

0.0

Unclassified or unclassifiable

36.3

40.0

51.6

 

100.0

100.0

100.0

Total disclosed corporate contributions

$26,560,469

$35,108,624

$666,475

Source:  Annual Reports of the Chief Election Officer of Ontario[vi]

Since 2004 the Liberals have taken advantage of the fundraising possibilities of being in office, raising $72.5 million, $10 million more than the Conservatives.  The NDP has fallen far behind the other two parties raising just under $28 million according to official records.[vii]  The gap between the NDP and the other two parties is partly explained by the composition of the funding.  The Liberals and Conservatives depend heavily on corporate funding, the Liberals for half of all of their financing and the Conservatives for about 43 percent.  Not surprisingly, given the perceptions of their policies in the business community, the NDP has had a very hard time attracting corporate money and have often been ambivalent about trying to do so and as a result it makes up just 2.5 percent of all of their fundraising.  The increasingly pro-business policies of the party both federally and provincially could well be seen as an attempt to close this huge gap. 

Individual contributors make 82.6 percent of NDP finances, just 44.2 percent of Liberal funds and 56.3 percent of PC contributions.   These are dramatic differences that determine much about how a party behaves, how it raises funds, what policies it advocates and so on.  Contributions from individuals also varied dramatically in average size from party to party and period to period.  For various record keeping reasons it is impossible to get an overall picture of this, but, for example, during the 2009 St Paul’s by-election the average contribution to the Liberal party was $356 while to the NDP and PC parties it was $104 and $115 respectively.  This probably reflects more than the convictions of partisans or the fund-raising efforts of parties and speaks to the relative wealth of party supporters.

Union contributions to all of the parties are but 14 percent of the size of corporate contributions.  The perception that union and corporate contributions to parties are roughly equal has never been even close to the truth.  While unions are important to the NDP, in this period they made up just 15 percent of the funds, a reflection of the declining power of unions and the NDP’s move to the centre and away from their founding partners.  Some unions have also shifted their political allegiances to the Liberal party and, while the percentages obscure it somewhat, during this period the Liberal party raised more money from unions than the NDP, $ 4.3 million to $4.15 million.  Not surprisingly, given the Conservatives past anti-union policies, union support for them was minimal.  

The one forgotten contributor in this classification is the state and it figures in every contribution made to a political party in Ontario through the provisions of the political contribution tax credit.   Many jurisdictions in Canada now use a tax credit as a way of funnelling money to parties and candidates via a very generous rebate to a contributor.   Contributors become the conduit for state support of the political process and they get to choose where the money will go through their initial contribution subsequently much reduced through the claiming of the tax credit.  The Ministry of Finance estimated the cost of political tax credits between 2004 and 2010 at $38 million.[viii]  

It is difficult to arrive at an exact figure for the number of unique individuals and corporations making contributions to the parties because of variable record keeping.  Names can be misspelt, entered in different ways with or without initials or without complete corporate or union identification.  Elections Ontario’s refusal to include addresses in internet disclosures greatly complicates identification. 

But Ontario parties are supported by a very narrow base of individuals and corporations.  Because identities of contributors giving less than or equal $100 are not disclosed,  I can only guess at their number. However, these contributions make up only a small percentage (5-10 at most) of total money flowing to the parties.  The lists of disclosed contributors suggest that the Liberals and Conservatives each attracted contributions from about 9,000-10,000 different corporations and  25,000-30,000 different individuals over the seven year period.  Some corporations, though few individuals, gave to both parties, so the support base for the two is even narrower.   The NDP base of individuals giving more than $100 is numbers about  17,000 people.  Their corporate support over this period was drawn from about 325 companies.  Of course in any specific year and not over the entire period, these numbers are considerably smaller. For example in 2009, just 2,000 corporations and about 7,500 individuals gave money to the Liberals, an exceedingly narrow financial base and one that is increasingly dependent on a few large contributors.

The fact that considerably less than one percent and maybe as low as half a percent of Ontario voters have made a contribution to a party over the past seven years speaks to the developing or developed distance between citizens and parties.  This together with the plummeting voting rate emphasizes the vanishing connection between citizens and the parties vying to represent them. But they are not short of money.  A few individuals and corporations are still supporting and influencing them.

Economic Sectors

What sectors or industries supported the parties?

What industries supported the parties, did they vary in levels of support, was industry composition for one party different from another?  These questions can only be answered with the files of disclosed contributions, those over $100 or about 90-95 percent of the money contained in the table above.  I will also restrict the discussion to contributions from corporations although there are many contributions from individuals who own or control those same corporations as will be shown below. 

The coding of contributions given below emerges from many years of coding this type of data and a knowledge of likely contributors and contributing industries.  Of course many companies could not be identified with internet sources and so could not be coded.  For this reason it is best to treat the percentages that follow as underestimates of the true percentages.  For example there are certainly more contributions from developers in the lists but identifying them would be extremely expensive, yet another reason for a disclosure system that parallels the American Federal Election Commission requirements.[ix]

Table 2.  Corporate contributions from different economic sectors.

 

PC

Liberal

NDP

Developers

17.7

12.2

1.1

Development related companies

14.6

13.5

1.6

Pharmaceuticals

2.5

3.4

0.3

Other medical

2.0

2.5

0.3

Financial

6.9

4.8

3.0

Chartered banks

2.6

2.3

6.5

Public relations

2.1

3.4

1.6

Associations

9.4

11.2

27.7

Energy

3.1

4.2

5.9

Mining

1.3

1.0

0.5

Auto industry

1.4

1.5

0.0

Unclassified or unclassifiable

36.3

40.0

51.6

 

100.0

100.0

100.0

Total disclosed corporate contributions

$26,560,469

$35,108,624

$666,475

 

The development and development related companies, together making up the development industry,  are by far the largest component of disclosed ( i.e. greater than $100) corporate contributions to the Conservative and Liberal parties, giving $8.5 milion and $9.0 million to the parties respectively.

A corporate contribution was classed as coming from a developer if that company had or has a development related application before a municipal or regional council, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), a local conservation authority, a school board or if they could be identified as developers through their websites, mentions in newspapers or on the Tarion website, a new home warranty program that lists participating developers  

Development related companies do not participate in land assembly and financing that are the key features of developers, but all or most of their activities are related to development.  Through the application stage, the development related industry includes planning approval consultants such as surveyors, planners, lawyers, architects, and engineers all working for the developer.  In the construction phase there are contractors for site preparation, house framing and concrete forming, structural steel makers and erectors, plumbers, roofers, electricians, dry-wallers, bricklayers, and interior finishers.  No development could happen without building material such as concrete, brick, wood, steel, aluminum, windows, doors, gravel and so on.  After completion, most development needs real estate agents or property managers or marketing companies that sell the dream of ownership and location. 

Contributions from the development industry could be significantly increased with the addition of construction union contributions discussed below.  Many of those unions are strongly supportive of property development and the jobs it will mean for their members.

Contributions from the development industry dominate Ontario municipal politics outside of Toronto, where corporate contributions are banned.  Because municipal politicians create profits for landholding developers through the rezoning of land and planning permissions, municipal government  is very much the focus of developers’ political interest.  However, provincial governments determine the rules for development through legislation such as the Planning Act,  the building code, the Greenbelt Act  and several other pieces of legislation that determine specific land uses.  Provincial decisions about new infrastructure spending on water, sewers, public transit, roads and even hospitals can greatly increase or decrease the value of a developer’s land.  Many developers will be keenly interested in the future of the Greenbelt where they hold land or options on land that was made worthless for development.  Given their support for both of the parties most likely to form government, it seems safe to predict that the next government will weaken Greenbelt controls and allow further development in areas that are now preserved.

The financial industry, the chartered banks and the rest of the financial industry, insurance companies, credits unions, investment houses and so on made up close to 10 percent of the Conservatives disclosed contributions as opposed to 7 percent for the Liberals.  The Conservatives connections to Bay Street are longstanding and many of their biggest supporters over the years have come from the financial industry.  The five big chartered banks gave the Liberals $800,000 over this period with Toronto Dominion leading the way and contributing $233,000.  The banks gave to the Conservatives over this period about $100,000 less than they gave to the governing Liberals.  Toronto Dominion again led the way with combined contributions from different entities adding up to $218,000.

Professional, retail, manufacturing, industrial, and occupational associations are a constant source of funding for parties in office or pretending to it.  Many of these associations exist to lobby government in the interest of their members.  For example, associations such as the Building Industry and Land Development Association or the Masonry Contractors Association of Toronto and many other similar groups all lobby for the general interest of the development industry.  Judging from the number of contributions from these associations, over 3,500 to the Liberal party over this period, these groups are always available to buy party fundraising tickets.

The Liberals Green Energy Act has attracted a host of potential investors from wind, solar, alternative energy, nuclear and natural gas power generating companies.  The largest contributors to the Liberals in this group were Bruce Power ($175,000), Enbridge ($150,000), Union Gas ($93,000) and Greenfield Ethanol  ($81,000).  Bruce Power operates the Bruce nuclear reactor, Enbridge has wind-farms and gas power generating ventures in Ontario, Union Gas has operating gas generating facilities and other proposals, and Greenfield Ethanol is one of the largest ethanol from grain producers in Canada.

The health industry, the pharmaceutical companies plus other medical related companies are a staple for the Liberal and Conservative parties.  For example, pharmaceutical companies were a constant source of funds for the Liberal party: Merck Frosst ($104,000), Pfizer ($98,000), Janssen-Ortho ($89,000),  GlaxoSmithKline ($76,000) and  Apotex ($82,000) are always interested in getting and keeping their drugs on the formulary, and several of these were paid tens of millions of dollars by the Ontario government over the 2004-2011 period. 

The public relations or lobbying industry is a constant source of funding for the two main Ontario parties.  Public relations firms, registered as lobbyists,  are never far from party fundraising functions, cultivating contacts and promoting the interests of their clients.  Among the biggest contributors to the Liberal party from this group were the Capital Hill Group ($148,000), Sussex Strategy Group ($95,000), StrategyCorp ($75,000) and Hill & Knowlton ($67,000).   StrategyCorp has over 100 active registrations in the Ontario Lobbyists’ Register and represents the interests of more than 30 companies, many of whom can be found in the party contribution lists.  The other three prominent contributors in this group represent the interests of similar or greater numbers of companies and industries to the Ontario government.  Many of the employees of these companies also gave money to the parties and are often key backroom election strategists for them. Leslie Noble of StrategyCorp gave the Conservatives $12,800 over the period and was a key election campaign strategist and advisor in elections over the past 20 years.  David MacNaughton, another principal at StrategyCorp, served as Dalton McGuinty’s  Principal Secretary.

The mining and automotive industries, car makers and parts makers, were not large contributors to either of the Liberal or Conservative parties. Both industries are recipients of huge financial incentives, tax reductions, and grants from government and the auto industry still plays a central, albeit diminished role in the Ontario economy.

People and citizens, rather than industries and companies, sign or direct corporate cheques to political parties.  Many, as a few examples below will show, also contribute in their own names thus multiplying their influence in a way that almost all other Ontarians cannot.

Contributions from the Tobacco Industry

It defies imagination to explain why the Conservatives and Liberals would accept contributions from the tobacco industry.   Yet the PC party accepted $98,000 in total from Imperial Tobacco, JTI-Macdonald, Rothmans  Benson and Hedges, National Smokeless Tobacco (a subsidiary of Altria, the largest US tobacco products maker)  and one of the industry’s mouthpieces , Smokers’ Voice. 

Even the governing Liberals, in charge of a health care system where the costs due to smoking are estimated at $50 billion in the government’s 2009 suit against big tobacco, accepted $21,175 from JTI-Macdonald, Rothmans  Benson and Hedges,  and National Smokeless Tobacco. 

On-line documents  at  Elections Ontario do not show that any of these contributions were returned.

Contributions from Individuals

Table 3.  Top Individual Contributors to Ontario's Three main Political parties 2004-2011

Liberal

 

Conservative

 

NDP

 

James Balsillie

$93,200

G Wayne Squibb

$90,150

Estate Violet Consta Emslie

$80,980

Heidemarie B Balsillie

$93,000

Estate Of Jean Farewell

$87,000

Daniel McCarthy

$58,374

Ophelia W F Tong

$84,460

Elizabeth Tory

$76,540

Howard Hampton

$57,607

Howard Brown

$52,837

Andrew M Pringle

$73,052

Ruth Elder

$47,900

Michael Nobrega

$51,004

John A Tory

$72,798

Lynn Williams

$35,997

G Wallace F McCain

$50,340

Nancy C McFadyen

$72,482

Stephen Murray

$35,344

E James Arnett

$49,427

Alan Greenberg

$54,447

Estate Of Gord Cochrane

$27,900

Norman Bacal

$48,878

John D McFadyen

$52,911

Felicite F Stairs

$26,002

Sarah Ker-Hornell

$48,037

John S Hunkin

$38,920

Michael Lewis

$21,894

Gregory Sorbara

$47,460

Philip Reichmann

$37,365

Janet Solberg

$21,441

 

$618,643

 

$655,665

 

$413,438

The top Liberal contributor, Jim Balsillie, is the co-CEO of Research in Motion, the second largest contributor was his spouse, Heidemarie,  and the third largest contributor, Ophelia Tong, is the spouse of Mike Lazaridis, the other co-CEO of RIM.  The 103 contributions to the Ontario Liberal Party from RIM and its founders added up to $492,000.   RIM and two numbered companies associated with it or the two CEOs, gave $196,025.  Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis and his spouse Ophelia Tong contributed $110,320 and Jim Balsillie and his spouse Heidemarie gave $186,200 over the 2004-2011period.

 RIM and its CEOs gave far less to the Conservatives, just $23,021.

Howard Brown is a principal with Brown & Cohen, a public affairs company that does lobbying, communications and marketing.  His firm gave another $20,000 to the party.   Michael Nobrega is CEO of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System one of the largest pension investment pools in the province.  He was also a founder of Borealis Infrastructure, a company that uses OMERS pension money to invest in government P3 infrastructure projects.  Norman Bacal is an entertainment industry tax lawyer with Heenan Blaikie.  James Arnett is a lawyer with Fraser Milner Casgrain and recently chaired a review of Ontario’s electricity agencies for the government.  Wallace McCain was the co-founder of McCain Foods and Chair of Maple Leaf Foods.   Sarah Ker- Hornell is CEO at FilmOntario, the film industry’s lobby group.

Wayne Squibb is President and CEO of the Realstar Group, a property developer and one of Ontario’s largest landlords.  He has been a long time supporter of the Conservative party and he and his firm must prefer that party’s pro-landlord changes to the Landlord and Tenants act and the effective end of non-profit housing.

A fourth class of contributors to political parties, the estates of deceased persons, was created by the Liberals in 2010.  Estate contributions were usually small and had been accepted in the past.  Legislating their acceptance is part of parties moving to raising funds through bequests from their dwindling number of ardent supporters.  They are a step backwards in terms of disclosure because anonymous executors can make contributions from an estate,  and as in the case of Jean Farewell (and an NDP contributor),  mine it for $87,000 between 2004 and 2008.  We have no idea who was directing those contributions.

John A Tory, a close advisor and executive for Kenneth Thomson and Edward (Ted) Rogers, inheritor and builder of the law firm Torys, was the father of past Conservative leader John H Tory.  Elizabeth Tory was the spouse of John A Tory and mother of John H.  Andrew Pringle is chair of RP Investments, an investment management firm for the very wealthy.  His spouse, TV host Valerie Pringle, contributed another $29,000 to the Conservatives over this period.  Philip Reichmann, the well-known property developer, is now a partner in the private investment firm ReichmannHauer Capital Partners.  John D and Nancy C McFadyen, spouses and Rosedale residents, have been among the top contributors to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario  for many years.  Alan Greenberg is a part owner and board member with the Minto Group, one of Ontario’s largest new home, condominium and rental property developers. Minto companies gave the Liberals $68,000 and almost $84,000 to the Conservatives    John Hunkin is the former CEO of the Bank of Commerce.

The NDP list is populated by former party officials.  Howard Hampton was the party leader for much of this period, Michael Lewis and Janet Solberg, children of former federal NDP leader David Lewis, have also both held offices in the Ontario party.   Lynn Williams is probably the former leader of the United Steelworkers.  Felicite Stairs was a candidate for the party in 2007. 

Not even the wealthiest individuals, who populate these lists of top donors, come anywhere close to the limits on contributions suggesting either that the limit is set to accommodate corporate contributors, in many cases the same wealthy individuals directing the contributions of their company or companies.

Contributions from Corporations

Table 4.  Top Corporate Contributors  to Ontario's Three main Political parties 2004-2011

Liberal Party Top Donors  
EllisDon $254,488
Toronto Dominion Bank $233,075
Bank of Montreal $187,890
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario $187,575
Bruce Power $174,771
Ontario Medical Association $159,381
Rogers Group of Companies $152,112
Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario $151,772
Enbridge $151,647
Dominion of Canada General Insurance $151,003
  $1,803,715
   
Conservative Party Top Donors  
Toronto Dominion Bank $218,317
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario $167,945
Rogers Group of Companies $147,799
Schickedanz Bros $146,302
CIBC $137,132
Mattamy $137,067
Enbridge $132,797
Bank of Montreal $132,074
Gamma-Dynacare $131,856
Ontario Medical Association $129,300
  $1,480,589
   
NDP Party Top Donors  
Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario $35,694
MPH Graphics Inc $31,732
Union Gas $29,384
Ontario Chiropractic Assoc $29,080
Law Society of Upper Canada $28,374
Ontario Construction Secretariat $25,578
Thistle Printing $25,476
Ontario Medical Association $23,428
Interior Systems Contractors Assoc iation $20,000
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario $17,804
  $266,550

 

The chartered bank totals in this table are summations of contributions from trust, wealth management and stock brokerage arms of each of the banks.  All of the banks are so intertwined with government at the provincial and federal levels that their interests are almost inseparable.  Bank stock brokerage arms are registered by the Ontario Securities Exchange Commission, they trade shares on and perhaps will soon own the Toronto Stock Exchange. Banks may have a major percentage of their loan portfolios in mortgages, so they are very interested in property development.  Banks hold and take a commission from the sale of the province’s bonds and debentures.  Their loan portfolios depend on the state of the economy for growth on both the commercial and personal banking side.  Banks have always been amongst the leading supporters of political parties in Canada being amongst the biggest donors to federal parties up until the 2004 when corporate contributions were severely limited and eventually excluded in 2006.

EllisDon, a privately held company, has longstanding links to the Liberal Party. Don Smith, the firm’s now retired founder was President of the Ontario Liberal party in the 1980s and current CEO Geoff Smith has been the Ontario Liberal Fund Chair.

The Liberals received $297,288 from 9 different corporations within the EllisDon conglomerate over the 2004-2011 period.  The Conservative party received  just $68,217. 

EllisDon is a partner in the Healthcare Infrastructure Company that has won contracts for the building of P3 hospitals in Brampton and Ottawa.  Carillon Canada and Borealis, both consortium partners,  gave $14,000 and $18,600 to the Liberals.  The Auditor General of Ontario reported in 2008 that the William Osler Health Corporation’s Brampton Hospital could have been build for hundreds of millions of dollars less than the final cost had it been built by the government rather than a P3 partnership. The Healthcare Infrastructure Company is an active bidder for P3 contracts across Canada.

According to the Public Accounts of Ontario, EllisDon Design Build was paid by the Government of Ontario  almost $9.6 million in the two most recent years. 

Ted Rogers and his companies have always been among the top contributors to federal and Ontario Progressive Conservative parties.  John H Tory the former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party spent time as a Rogers executive and is now a member of the Board of Directors. 

Rogers group companies gave the Conservatives $ 173,693. The Rogers family, the late patriarch, his spouse and their son gave another $88,800. Rogers Directors, Philip Lind, Peter Godsoe, William Linton and Alan Horn gave  $46,594 and John H Tory, his spouse Elizabeth and his now deceased father, John A Tory, a former Rogers director, gave another  $183,249.  In total, Rogers related contributions added up to at least $492,336. 

Rogers companies gave the $Liberals $152,000 but only one of the Rogers directors contributed to the party.

Schickedanz is one of Ontario’s largest land developers and builders with projects throughout the GTA.  They are and probably were large landowners in the area designated by the Liberal’s to be in the Greenbelt.  Municipal documents show that they have tried to free their properties from building restrictions in Vaughan and elsewhere and must have suffered a loss of property values when the Greenbelt came into effect.  The Conservative’s policy on the Greenbelt is unclear at best but based on Tim Hudak’s comments,  it seems likely that they would free some property in the Greenbelt for development if they are elected.  City councils in most Greenbelt municipalities are pressing hard for the reduction of the protected area and they too will come under pressure from developers.    Other Schickedanz companies, all listed at the same address, gave another  $70,900 to the party and members of the family  made modest contributions.  Schickedanz companies appear to have given the Liberals just $1,500 over the 2004-2011 period.

Another property developer in the Conservative list is Mattamy a GTA wide builder who also gave $143,000 to the Liberals and two others, Metrus and Lebovic who both gave the Liberals more than $115,000 each.

The lists also contain 12 contributions from 6 occupational or industrial associations.  Many of these represent groups that are regulated by the province.

The interests of most of the other companies in the lists have been mentioned above with the one exception of Gamma-Dynacare.  It shares Ontario’s medical laboratory testing market with a handful of other companies and is regulated by and paid millions of dollars by the province.

Contributions from Conglomerates

In a campaign finance regime that allows corporate contributions, individuals can compound their influence and escape contribution limits by contributing through multiple corporate entities as well as through extended families.  They can also find a degree of anonymity, if that is their goal, by giving through multiple private corporate entities whose ownership is in most instances impossible to trace.  Multiple contribution sources may also save the recipient, the party or candidate, some embarrassment when the extent of reliance on single wealthy individuals is made apparent.

There are undoubtedly many instances of wealthy individuals using corporations to direct funding to Ontario parties between 2004 and 2011.  The two examples cited below can be added to those discussed in the text above.   

Cortellucci Companies

Mario Cortellucci, the well-known Vaughan-based developer gave at least $249,725 to the PC party over the period and $132,306 to the Liberal party through his own personal contributions, those of his family and his many corporations.  To the Conservatives, he directed 110 contributions from 25 different sources,  almost all corporations.  As improbable as it may seem, Cortellucci companies were far more generous with the Mike Conservative party, giving them almost $980,000 between 1995 and 2002.

Cortellucci companies have ownership or interests on the Toronto waterfront (Hearn generating station), the new Vaughan Town centre, in large swathes of land in Innisfil beyond the Greenbelt , in Peterbrorough, Whitby and many other communities in the GTA. 

Cortellucci and his companies are also large supporters of municipal candidates and his interests are directly affected by provincial and municipal land use planning and infrastructure decisions.  Like most developers he will be particularly interested in the fate of the 2015 Greenbelt review.  He will profit hugely from the new Vaughan Town centre and the Province’s decision to fund part of the TTC subway extension to Jane and Highway 7.

Giant Tiger

Giant Tiger is one of the biggest Canadian-owned retail chains in Canada. Most of their Ontario stores are found in small to mid-sized towns.  The chain was started in by Gordon Reid, the father of current federal Conservative MP Scott Reid.  Giant Tiger has a unique franchise system and the relationship between “franchises” and the parent company has been the subject of a least one tax law court case.

Ninety-two corporations operating as Giant Tiger stores made 462 separate contributions to the PC party that, between 2004 and 2011, added up to $369,451.  Giant Tiger stores were not nearly so generous to the governing Liberals.  They gave a total of $191,346 from 90 companies in 398 contributions over the same period.  Almost all , 90 percent, of the corporate contributions to the Liberal party, were for the sum of $300 and 80 percent of the contributions to the Conservatives were for the sum of $700.  Such a uniform pattern strongly suggests that the contributions were in some manner coordinated across entities.

Contributions from Unions[x]

Between 2004 and August 31 2011, unions gave the three Ontario political parties slightly more than $9,275,000. While that is a significant amount even spread out over seven and a half years and over three parties, it is just 14 percent of the amount that corporations gave almost entirely to the Liberal and Conservative parties. 

Table 5  Top Union Contributors to Ontario’s Three main Political parties 2004-2011

Liberal

 

 

Conservative

 

 

NDP

 

UBCJA

$898,360

 

OECTA

$60,665

 

USWA

$1,121,264

LIUNA

$776,910

 

LIUNA

$46,786

 

UFCW

$296,007

UAJAPPFI

$468,147

 

UBCJA

$31,835

 

OSSTF

$252,989

OSSTF

$456,104

 

OSSTF

$30,157

 

CAW

$249,371

OECTA

$322,498

 

CUPE

$29,000

 

CUPE

$237,427

FIRE

$227,254

 

IRON

$26,415

 

ETFO

$200,044

ETFO

$208,423

 

PAINT

$15,000

 

CEP

$182,297

SMWIA

$197,832

 

FIRE

$8,988

 

OECTA

$180,457

IBEW

$186,759

 

UNITE

$2,500

 

SEIU

$151,844

IUOE

$129,458

 

IBEW

$1,300

 

UAJAPPFI

$145,389

TOTAL

$3,871,746

 

 

$252,646

 

 

$3,017,090

 

CAW Canadian Auto Workers
CEP Communications, Energy and Paperworkers
CUPE Canadian Union of Public Employees
ETFO Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario
FIRE Fire Fighters (various)
IBEW International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
IRON International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers
IUOE International Union of Operating Engineers
LIUNA Laborers' International Union of North America
OSSTF Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers' Federation
OECTA Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association
PAINT International Union of Painters & Allied Trades
SIEU Service Employees International Union 
SMWIA Sheet Metal Workers' International Association 
UAJAPPFI United Association of Journeymen & Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipe Fitting Industry 
UBCJA United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America 
UFCW United Food & Commercial Workers Union 
UNITE-HERE Amalgamation of textile and restaurant and hotel workers' unions
USWA United Steelworkers of America

 

Over half the money ( 54 percent) from unions over this period went to the Liberal party, 42 percent went to what many think of as the party of unions, the NDP, and under 4 percent went to the Conservatives.  The Conservative figure is hardly surprising given the Harris government’s anti-union legislation and the current party’s anti-organized labour rhetoric. 

Union support for the Liberals has been a growing trend that probably started with the Rae NDP government’s Social Contract legislation or before.  The growth in support for the Liberals has also been aided by the NDP’s attempt to lower the profile of its links with organized labour and diminish its role of within the party, repositioning itself as a electable centrist alternative to the Liberals.   The slow decline in union membership and the difficulty in organizing new industries and workplaces have seen unions retreat from broader political goals to a focus on defending wages, benefits and pensions.  In addition, much of the unionized workforce and its leadership sees itself as middle class, having little connection to the wider political goals of working class parties.   

Contributions from private sector unions made up about two thirds of the total and the same proportion for both the NDP and the Liberals.  While the right, for example Rob Ford, often vilifies public sector unions and their political power, in Ontario over this period it was private sector unions that tried to influence the political agenda to a much greater degree. 

The largest chunk of private sector union contributions (about 60 percent) came from the construction unions and about 84 percent of that went to the Liberal party.    The Carpenters’ Union  (United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America)  gave the Liberals almost $900,000 from various locals and other affiliated organizations.  That huge amount directed by a group of centrally controlled entities or conglomerates was only surpassed y the Steelworkers contribution of $1.12 million to the NDP.   The Carpenters gave the NDP just $7,800 and the Steelworkers gave the Liberals just $2,800 emphasizing the split in the union movement’s partisan loyalties. 

These sums are very large but it needs to be remembered that they are the total contributions from locals, none of which exceed the annual limits. For example, more than 50 Steelworkers locals contributed money.[xi]  When added together they emphasize the complete pointless of the contribution limits when they permit all connected locals, the equivalent of associated companies, to make contributions.

Other construction unions, Labourers International (LIUNA) and the Pipefitters (UAJAPPFI) also made huge contributions to the Liberals and considerably less to the NDP over the seven and a half year period.  LIUNA, for example, one of the few unions that contributed to the Harris Government, turned most of that support to the governing Liberals, giving the NDP just $36,000.

Construction unions represent workers in an often very anti-union environment.  Builders are always trying to squeeze costs through such things as hiring undocumented workers and breaking down the skill monopolies of trades.  Construction unions rely on government regulation to preserve members jobs and maintain labour regulatory regimes that allow unions to remain in existence.  Their negative experiences during the Harris years were enough to send them in the direction of the Liberals.

Unions representing teachers also populate the list.  The Secondary School Teachers (OSSTF, $465,000) and the English Catholic Teachers (OECTA, $322,00)  both gave close to twice as much to the Liberals as they gave to the NDP while the Elementary Teachers (ETFO) gave about equally to both.  In reversing some of the Harris educational reforms the Liberals have won the long term support of teachers’ unions.

Contributions from Public Sector Organizations

In reply to a recent question in the Legislative Assembly about contributions to the Liberal party from the President of a publically funded college, Kathleen Wynne stated that “the Ontario Liberal Party does not accept contributions from hospitals, colleges, universities, municipalities or from any organization that receives public funding.“  The contribution records show a different pattern.  Between 2004 and 2011, the Liberals accepted $198,000 in contributions from just these types of organizations and Conservatives received $66,000.  It is possible that some of these were returned though this cannot be confirmed from Elections Ontario documents posted to the internet.  Among the list of contributors were municipalities, hospitals, universities, colleges and a number of lobby associations wholly funded by other public sector organizations such as Colleges Ontario or the Ontario Hospital Association  There were also contributions from municipally owned power distribution companies (i.e. Veridian, Essex Power, London Hydro, PowerStream, Thunder Bay Hydro) and economic development corporations (i.e. Tourism Toronto, economic development corporations in London, Kingston and Peterborough). 

Parties should not be accepting contributions from any publicly funded or owned entities.  Many of these organizations are paying to attend fundraising events when they should be given other opportunities to access political decision-makers.  Part of the result of two decades of partial privatization has been the emergence of publically owned corporations that behave like private sector ones, apparently freed of any political accountability and willing to use public funds to pursue corporate goals.  

The only effective ways to prevent these contributions is to ban all corporate contributions.

The Reforms We Need

We have a world of examples of political finance reforms in Canada and around the world.  Reforming our system is not like finding a cure for cancer.  But it is probably almost as difficult given the interests of recent governing parties in continuing regulations that they see as advantageous. 

Reforming the contribution disclosure laws might be a first step to revealing the dependence of the parties on large contributions and, at this point, the most attainable reform.  Real-time disclosure needs to be extended to all contributions including those made during a campaign.  This not a technological problem, computerized systems exist and in an age of internet banking, it should hardly be a problem for even local party CFOs to submit contribution information to the central party.

Disclosure of information needs to be strengthened by the posting of addresses and the collection of more information on contributors.  As was mentioned, the American system is much more comprehensive and knowledge of and debates about campaign financing open and informed.

Contribution and expenditure limits need to be lowered.  As evidence in this paper shows, current compounded annual contribution limits are meaningless.  They don’t really limit anyone.  Multi-entity corporations and unions can simply avoid them.

Lower spending limits will reduce the need for parties to raise large sums and will force them to find ways to communicate with citizens other than through campaign advertising. 

A harder pill for the parties to swallow will be the banning of corporate and union contributions.  Federal elections since 2006 have been held without corporate money, the City of Toronto council was elected without corporate or union money, Quebec has had a ban in effect since 1977, Manitoba since 2000 and Nova Scotia since 2010. Many political jurisdictions around the world have operated with such bans for years.  Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, France, Israel, Portugal, and the United States, to name a few, all ban corporate contributions at the national level and many sub-national governments also have such bans.   The reasons are not complicated.  Corporations cannot vote or run for office, they are not citizens and do not hold the rights of citizens. They should not be allowed to participate in electoral politics by contributing to parties campaigns. Moreover, allowing citizens who own or control corporations to give once in their own name and again in the name of a company or companies is blatantly unfair to those who cannot or do not command wealth through corporate organizations. 

Unless citizens make an issue of political finance reforms we are destined to suffer a politics where parties have less and less contact with the citizens they are meant to represent, depend increasingly on a few wealthy individual donors, corporations, conglomerates and unions for their ideas and for the  money to sustain interactions mediated by technology and shaped by marketing.  That is very different from a democratic politics that involves us in collective decisions about our future. 

Notes


[i] These files often take several years to be accepted and approved by Elections Ontario so totals can change by very small amounts. The only contribution files available for 2011 are the real-time disclosure lists of contributions to the central parties posted as of August 29.

[ii] Elections Canada, 2008 Canadian Election Study (40th General Election) Report on the Results of Elections Canada’s Questions, December, 2010, page 9.  Italics added by this author.

http://www.elections.ca/res/rec/eval/ces/CES_2008_e.pdf

[iii] Strategic Counsel,  Survey of electors following the 40th General Election, March 2009. P 65.  http://www.elections.ca/res/rec/eval/40eval/survey-electors_e.pdf

[iv] These files often take several years to be accepted and approved by Elections Ontario so totals can change by very small amounts. The only contribution files available for 2011 are the real-time disclosure lists posted until August 29.

[v] Liberal party of Ontario,  Government that works for you.  The Ontario Liberal Plan for a More Democratic Ontario, Toronto, 2003,  p.2.

[vi] These figures are taken from Annual Reports of the Chief Election Officer of Ontario.  The Annual Reports give totals for all contributions and not just those greater than $100, the disclosed contributions, which are discussed throughout the balance of the paper.

[vii] Elections Ontario does from time to time misreport figures.  My experience with looking at these figures over the years suggests that they may have misreported one or two NDP fundraising totals and as a result inflated the NDP total by a million dollars or more.  In these two instances from 2009, the figures given in the Annual Report are far higher than the total of disclosed contributions in files posted on the website.

[viii]  Ontario Ministry of Finance, Transparency in Taxation for the years 2004 to 2010.

[ix]  Determining the ownership of privately held companies is impossible.  The best one can do is to pay for a corporate profile report that reveals directors of the company.

[x] I have coded unions in a slightly broader fashion that Elections Ontario.  While they do not make available coded data, it seems they restrict the definition of a union contribution to certified unions representing workers.  I have added a number of other organizations that are soley funded by union members such as District Labour Councils, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and various construction union umbrella groups.

[xi] It is difficult to be more certain about the number as the contribution records kept by Elections Ontario, particularly for unions, are very often incomplete, partial or incorrect.

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October 13rd, 2010 06:00:24
Related topics : Who Gives?

Who Gives?

Top Donors

October 13rd, 2010 06:00:24
Related topics : Who Gets?
October 13rd, 2010 05:53:13
Related topics : About Us

About Us

Data on contributions over $100 made to candidates is derived from the official election returns filed by each candidate with the elections officer. The names of frequent contributors are normalised and clustered by VoteToronto.ca as the same entity when evident from appearances in other returns. 

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of contribution data, VoteToronto.ca cannot guarantee the accuracy of data collected from third parties. VoteToronto.ca will strive to correct any inaccuracies brought to its attention. This should be done by e-mailing info@votetoronto.ca.

VoteToronto.ca is independent of any organized political party. VoteToronto.ca editorial positions are arrived at by reviewing voting records, campaign contribution r ecords, the organization and funding of candidate campaigns, and community references and candidate positions on issues of the day. VoteToronto.ca reserves the right to change its assessment of issues and candidates, at any time, as other information comes forward.

October 13rd, 2010 05:57:50
Related topics : 2010 Campaign Pre-disclosure

Few incumbents favour ban on corporate contributions

A recent Fair Vote Canada survey of 474 city councillors and mayors in Ontario’s 42 largest cities (other than Toronto) found only 35 city councillors and two mayors willing to support a ban on corporate and union campaign contributions in municipal elections (see list here) – a ban already instituted in many jurisdictions in Canada.

October 13rd, 2010 05:57:50
Related topics : 2010 Campaign Pre-disclosure

Why is predisclosure important?

Candidates are not obliged to make their election contributions public until five months after the election. Candidates who voluntarily disclose the contributions received two weeks prior to the election demonstrates transparency to potential voters. 

Email or ask your candidates at a public debate if they intend to pre-disclose and let voters know how much and from whom they have collected money.

In Toronto you should also ask candidates whether they will support continuing the by-law that bans corporate and unions from making contributions to candidates for election.