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Wynne says changes to political fundraising rules coming this spring

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

TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne promised Monday to introduce legislation this spring to reform Ontario’s political fundraising rules, after saying just last week that the changes would be announced in the fall.

After writing the Progressive Conservative and New Democrat leaders Sunday agreeing to their requests to meet the premier to discuss updating the fundraising rules, Wynne said Monday she was stepping up her plans to deal with the issue.

“Our government plans on introducing legislation, I have said in the fall, but we’re going to introduce that legislation in the spring,” she told the legislature.

“I want to give (the other) leaders time to consult with their respective parties so that their feedback and input can be reflected in the legislation that we introduce.”

The opposition parties turned up the heat over the fact Liberal cabinet ministers have fundraising quotas of up to $500,000 each, using the entire question period to attack the government for holding expensive and exclusive dinners and receptions for lobbyists.

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READ MORE: Wynne invites opposition leaders to discuss political fundraising reform

“Setting fundraising targets for cabinet ministers forces them to fundraise from stakeholders with active files within their respective ministries,” said PC Leader Patrick Brown. “It is impossible to avoid that ethical contradiction.”

Brown also questioned the sincerity of Wynne’s promises to change the rules on political fundraising, and accused the premier of trying to “muddy the waters” to deflect attention from questionable practices by Liberal cabinet ministers.

“If the premier said today: ‘ministers will no longer fundraise off stakeholders in their department immediately,’ that would show leadership,” he said.

“We’re not seeing that.”

READ MORE: Wynne now admits her cabinet ministers have fundraising quotas

The New Democrats are concerned that Wynne and the Liberals would draft new fundraising rules without any real input from the chief electoral officer, other political parties, academics or the general public. Their concern was made worse Monday when Wynne promised legislation this spring, especially after their “sham” consultations on the provincial budget, said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

“It’s worrisome that this premier seems to have such knee-jerk reactions to things,” said Horwath.

“She’s getting a lot of heat for their fundraising activities, but that doesn’t justify the government ramming something through the legislature that is potentially good for Liberals and nobody else.”

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Both the PC and NDP leaders said they would continue to hold fundraisers in the same manner as the Liberals until the rules are changed, but both agreed they would support the elimination of corporate and union donations.

“Ontarians are concerned that their voice won’t be heard by their government unless they write a big cheque,” said Horwath.

“It’s time to stop the undue influence that big money is having on many politics in this province.”

READ MORE: Wynne says not the first time she’s heard complaints about political fundraising

Ontario will follow the federal lead to ban corporate and union donations, but has called for a transition period, which means most of the reforms won’t take effect before the next election in 2018, added Wynne.

“It took a number of years at the federal level to get to the point that they’re at now,” she said. “I’d like to know from the opposition leaders how that transition should work in Ontario.”

Meanwhile, the Liberals introduced legislation Monday to allow Ontario municipalities to ban corporate and union donations to political candidates.