Toronto – As part of the Vote Smart 2010 initiative ahead of next week’s municipal elections, Environmental Defence and the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance today released Under the Influence: Election Funding in Ontario’s Greenbelt. The report looks at the 2006 election campaign contributions of 209 elected mayors and councillors from 24 municipalities across the Regions of Halton, Peel, York and Durham. Key findings are:

 Of the $4.1 million in campaign funding across the four Regions, over $1.7 million, or 43%, came from the development industry.
Subdivided on a Regional basis, the development industry is also the most prominent funder in three of the four Regions: Durham 41%, York 47%, and Peel 52%.

 “Our democracy is supposed to be based on the principle of one person, one vote, but developers are undermining this principle by seeking to buy influence at City Hall,” said Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “We need to ban campaign donations by non-voters – including developers and unions – so that elected officials are accountable to the individuals in the communities they represent, and not beholden to other agendas .”
 
The report was written in conjunction with Professor Robert MacDermid of York University and concludes that there is an apparent relationship between the rapid and low-density development and the vast amount of funding provided for election campaigns by the development industry in these areas.
 
The Vote Smart 2010 initiative has surveyed almost 1,400 candidates across the GTA about key quality of life and environmental issues, including reforming the Ontario Municipal Elections Act to ban corporate and union contributions. Collectively, candidates in these four Regions voted 67% in favour of such reform.  The results are available at www.votesmart2010.ca.
 
“Developers wouldn’t contribute funding to election campaigns if there wasn’t an expectation of results,” observed Professor MacDermid, who has studied election financing for 30 municipalities throughout Ontario. “The contributions are not made simply to support a democratic process, or developers would fund all campaigns in any given election. The funding is concentrated on a selection of candidates, and if you look at the winning candidates, they tend to have the bulk of development industry funding.”
 
The report recommends key reforms needed for the Ontario Municipal Elections Act, which currently falls short in addressing these issues:

 Union and corporate donations should be banned.
Only qualified electors in the municipality where a candidate is running should be allowed to contribute to the candidate’s campaign.
Contributions from any one person should be limited.
Campaign labour from employees which is paid for by their employer should be reported as part of the employer’s contributions.

“Developer dominance of municipal political contributions is destroying irreplaceable farmland and natural areas” said Dan McDermott, Director of Sierra Club Ontario, a member group of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. “The result is more low density sprawl at the expense of human health, our quality of life and the democracy we cherish”.
 
The full report may be viewed at https://environmentaldefence.ca/reports
 
About Environmental Defence (www.environmentaldefence.ca): We are Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
 
About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (www.greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of close to 100 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
 
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Erin Charter, Communications Coordinator, 416.323.9521 X 258, or mobile 647-280-9521