Wynne invites opposition leaders to discuss political fundraising reform

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne during a media availability at Queen's Park in Toronto, Thursday, Oct, 1, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marta Iwanek

TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne is asking for a meeting this week with Ontario’s opposition leaders to talk about reforming the province’s political fundraising rules.

After a week of intense criticism over fundraising quotas for Liberal cabinet ministers, Wynne sent a letter Sunday to Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath saying she wants their input on finance reform.

“I am committed to phasing out corporate and union donations to political parties and reducing the amount that individuals can donate,” wrote Wynne.

“My government remains committed to enhancing the integrity of the election finance system and protecting the public interest.”

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Wynne also said she would give the Tories and New Democrats time to come up with their own suggestions before the new rules are drafted.

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“After we meet, and once you are able to consult within your parties, I am very interested to receive your formal input on a responsible way forward to reform the current system, including your ideas on legislative and non-legislative mechanisms we could use to develop recommendations to assist us in making these important reforms,” she wrote.

The premier’s letter came after both opposition leaders said they don’t want the governing Liberals coming up with new political financing rules on their own.

Brown sent an open letter to Wynne on Friday asking for an all-party committee of the legislature to examine the issue.

“I am proposing on Monday, April 4, the legislature immediately (strike) a select committee to carry out public consultations on reforming both political donations and third-party advertising,” he wrote.

Wynne denies accusations that lobbyists are buying access to her and Liberal cabinet ministers at expensive and exclusive dinners and receptions, but promises to come up with new rules by this fall.

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However, she said there will have to be a phase-in period, so not all the proposed changes to the political fundraising rules will be implemented before the next election in 2018.

Wynne said she wants to follow the federal model and phase out corporate and union donations and reduce the amount individuals can contribute to parties and candidates, but hasn’t said if taxpayers would subsidize parties under the new rules.

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Federal contribution rules allow individuals to contribute a maximum of $1,525 to each party annually, plus another $1,525 in total to all the registered associations and candidates of each party.

In Ontario, individuals, companies and unions can donate $9,775 to a party each year, another $9,975 to the party for each campaign period, plus $6,650 annually to constituency associations of any one party. They can also donate $6,650 to candidates of any one party in a campaign, but no more than $1,330 to a single candidate.

Ontario also has no limits on contributions to political leadership candidates. Former Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Christine Elliott received a single donation of $100,000 in 2014.

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