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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
Toronto Election Finance Reform
29/03/2004

Apparently there was a Toronto Election Finance Review Task Force, which has put together a document (PDF) that examines criticisms made about our municipal election finance rules, and makes suggestions.

Here's a summary:

  • In order to avoid the situation where a donor gives money to many different candidates, it is recommended that the Ontario Municipal Elections Act be adjusted to limit contributions to all council candidates by a donor to $1000 with a maximum of $750 to any one.
  • In order to address the fact that candidates that win are able to attract a lot of funding from corporations, and losing candidates rely mainly on individuals, several alternative rebate or matching grant plans are proposed that reduce the impact or rebate for non-personal giving.
  • In order to eliminate the huge surpluses generated by some candidates, which they use to build a base for subsequent elections, it is recommended that post-election surpluses become the property of the municipality or school board.
  • In order to avoid misuse to the loophole that exempts fundraising expenses to count as campaign spending (thus allowing elaborate campaign "fundraising" parties that lose money), they recommend counting functions and parties as campaign expenses and then increasing the spending limit by 25%.
  • In order to make reporting of election financing and expenditures more transparent, they recommend mandatory electronic filing and more detailed expense breakouts.
  • In order to address joint campaigns, a recommendation was made to formalize these relationships.
  • In order to rectify the situation whereby City Council is responsible for monitoring and enforcing election activities, it is recommended that an independent Election Finance Review Board be created, either as a local or a provincial body.
  • In order to enhance information for voters, it is recommended that detailed contribution and expense information be presented online.

I didn't even know that this task force existed, but it seems to have done some good work to make elections more fair in Toronto.

I'm particularly interested in the idea of an independent Election Finance Review Board.

For a while, I have been thinking about the case of Barbara Hall. She clearly broke the spirit of the law, if not the letter, when she began her campaign for mayor a month or two before it was legal to do so. Despite bulldog attempts by Tom Jakobek, no-one was willing to investigate the case and come to a conclusion. The OPP ended up dumping this hot potato back to City Council.

This is entirely unacceptable. If you cheat, enforcement only comes after the election. Furthermore, enforcement only comes if it is politically convenient to do so. In other words, not only is it unlikely that Barbara Hall will ever have to answer for her Friends, but there will be no precedent set about this sort of activity.

This is the sort of reason we need an independent body that will enforce the election rules.


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