GROUP CALLS FOR CLEAN-UP OF ONTARIO TORY AND OTHER PROVINCIAL PARTY LEADERSHIP RACES
Thursday, March 14, 2002
OTTAWA - Democracy Watch called on the Ontario government to change the rules for all provincial party leadership races by setting limits on campaign spending and donations, requiring disclosure of donations prior to the vote (as in the U.S.), and prohibiting lobbyists from serving in senior campaign positions. Democracy Watch has discovered at least two cases of active lobbyists holding senior positions in Tory leadership campaigns.
"It is not only undemocratic, but also very inconsistent to regulate general elections fully but not party leadership campaigns which lead to the election of a Premier, or opposition leader," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.
Requests by Democracy Watch to all Tory leadership campaigns revealed that Michael Ras of Hill and Knowlton Canada Ltd. is the campaign manager on Jim Flaherty's leadership campaign, and that Linda Franklin is the senior communications advisor on Ernie Eves's campaign. Both Ras and Franklin are registered as actively lobbying the Ontario government (PLEASE contact Democracy Watch for lists of their clients). According to the list of senior positions provided by the leadership campaigns of Tony Clement, Chris Stockwell and Elizabeth Witmer (which may not be the complete lists of their campaign teams), no lobbyists are working on their teams.
"Lobbyist working for public officials, including during leadership campaigns, can easily create conflicts of interest" said Conacher. "The rule should be either choose to be a lobbyist or to work with politicians, but not both at the same time."
Democracy Watch also raised serious concerns about the lack of public accountability and transparency in the financing of Ontario party leadership campaigns. While provincial law requires the identity of donors of all donations over $100 to be disclosed, financing reports are not required to be filed until six months after the leadership vote, far too late to be of use to party voters.
In addition, there are no limits in the Ontario law on the amount any individual or organization may donate to a candidate, or that any candidate may spend in a leadership campaign. Each political party is allowed to establish its own donation and spending limits, and enforcement is ineffective because it is also left to the parties.
In the current race, the Tories have established an arbitrary spending limit of $1.5 million per campaign, which is twice the limit set for their previous leadership election and fully 1/3 of the limit set by provincial regulations for the Tories during the last general election.
"Party leadership races are an ideal time for donors to influence the direction of parties, and ultimately the government," said Aaron Freeman, Board member of Democracy Watch. "There has to be a limit on how much donors can give to influence the future Premier of Ontario."
"Citizens have a right to know who is bankrolling each candidate before they vote," said Freeman.
To prevent future undemocratic and unethical party leadership races, Democracy Watch is calling on the Ontario government to enact the following measures:
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Coordinator
Tel: (613) 241-5179
or view Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign page or Money in Politics Campaign page