KENORA – For years many have raised concern about the ability of businesses, unions and other entities to use their financial power to influence decisions.
In recent years many governments have taken steps to reduce that influence, banning donations from businesses and unions in hopes of levelling the playing field. Ontario is not one of those jurisdictions.
This past week, serious concerns were raised that Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton’s Private Members’ Bill had more to do with political financing than serving the public interest.
Bill 74 sought to reverse a 55 year-old agreement for EllisDon, one of Canada’s largest construction firms, allowing them out of a commitment to hire only unionized workers. In its story on the bill, the Toronto Star cites an email written by PC MPP, Randy Hillier, who voices concerns that the Bill violated Section 41 of the Legislative Assembly Act, which forbids MPPs from benefitting – in this case financially – from legislation they propose.
Citing sources within the PC party, the Star states that after a successful fundraiser for Tim Hudak, PC MPPs were told by senior officials that the goal of the bill was to increase the company’s donations to the party.
If this story is true, and Hillier has stood by his statement since the news was released, it raises serious concerns about the role donations can have in pushing legislation forward. While nobody has suggested the company specifically told anyone in the PC party that pushing this legislation forward would lead to increased donations, the fact that they have since donated more than $14,000 to the PCs, and $26,000 to the Liberals – who also supported the bill, does raise some concern.
While the allegations have not been proven, the fact that there can be any question about the motive behind this bill – or any other – suggests that we need to have a serious discussion about political financing laws in Ontario.
In recent years the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec, as well as the Federal Government, have followed through on recommendations to ban donations made by businesses and unions. By following suit, and while continuing to have strong limitations on the amount an individual can donate over the course of the year, we can help eliminate concerns about the impartiality of governments, MPPs and other officials who are charged with defending the public interest.
Recent scandals, such as the cancellation of Gas Plants in Oakville and Mississauga, have already raised concerns about whose interests are influencing our government’s decision-making process and this most recent scandal, although it involves primarily the PC party and not the government, is no different.
Taxpayers deserve to be assured that the decisions that are made are done so in the best interests of the province, not for electoral gain, financial gain or in the interest of a few well-connected individuals. Reform is needed and hopefully this new scandal will be the catalyst for Ontario to take steps to make some very necessary changes.
Sarah Campbell MPP