Simcoe County – The McGuinty government should ban corporate and union contributions to municipal election campaigns, says a report released today by Campaign Lake Simcoe, after finding that a disproportionate level of campaign contributions is giving developers an unfair advantage in municipal politics in Simcoe County.
The report, Money and Politics in Simcoe County: Shining a Light on Municipal Election Financing, notes that corporate and union financing of election campaigns has already been banned at the federal level, in the City of Toronto, and in the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba.
“When we looked at some municipalities in Simcoe County, we found that the development industry donated a significant amount of money to candidates. That level of financing can’t help but influence the decisions councillors make about the growth of their communities,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, a Campaign Lake Simcoe partner.
The report, based on election contributions from five Simcoe-area municipalities, found that the development industry gave 43% of all contributions to elected councillors. More than half (58%) of development industry contributions came from outside the municipality. The “development industry” refers to both developers and development-related companies, such as contractors for site preparation or law firms and planning consultants working for the developer.
“Why should those not permitted to vote in a municipality be permitted to influence the election’s outcome?” said Bob Eisenberg, founding Chair and Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, and co-chair of Campaign Lake Simcoe. “As long as candidates who distinguish between optimum growth and maximum growth find it relatively difficult to attract campaign financing, we will not control urban sprawl or stop the impoverishment of our environmental heritage.”
In addition to banning corporate and union campaign contributions, the report also recommends that:
financial contributors to a candidate’s campaign should be qualified electors in the municipality where the candidate is running;
the number and value of contributions by a single contributor should be limited;
the value of paid volunteer labour should be included as a contribution from the employer.
“The sprawling pattern of development in the 905 region should make us think hard about the influence of development dollars in elections on the kind of development that we get,” said York University’s Robert MacDermid, a well-known expert on municipal election financing and a contributor to the report. Professor MacDermid has authored studies on the high level of developer contributions to election campaigns in many 905 municipalities.
Money and Politics in Simcoe County: Shining a Light on Municipal Election Financing can be downloaded for free at www.campaignlakesimcoe.ca.
About Campaign Lake Simcoe: Campaign Lake Simcoe is a partnership of Environmental Defence, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Ontario Nature and welcomes participation from all citizen groups who care about Lake Simcoe.