In a significant change to a long-standing Ontario law, independent candidates now have more freedom to fundraise.
With Independent MPP Randy Hillier leading the charge, the Election Finances Act has been amended to level the playing field for independent politicians.
“So when things really did start, it was a constitutional challenge to the law,” Hillier says.
“Clearly it was discriminatory, and offended the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
The Kingston area MPP was kicked out of the Ontario PC caucus back in 2019, and soon after becoming an independent MPP, Hillier began his legal quest for fundraising equality.
The change to the law has three main components:
- Independents can now form constituency associations, which will allow them to raise money between elections
- Successful independents can now keep their election surpluses, which they had to return before
- Independent Constituency Associations will receive a quarterly allowance, just like political party associations
But according to Hillier’s lawyer, the changes stop short of benefiting all independent candidates.
“What you’ll notice though, is that all these benefits only go to independent members,” says Asher Honickman, Hillier’s lawyer.
“You already have to be in the legislature to get any of these benefits. So someone who is running as an independent candidate get none of these benefits at all.”
Hillier says the changes could be a lifeline for MPPs who may not always see eye to eye with their parties.
“This should give those other members in the caucuses who are less than satisfied with how their parties are conducting themselves,” says Hillier.
“The party has less leverage and coercive ability to keep them in line.”
Generally speaking, political experts appear to be in favour of the changes.
“Parties look out for themselves and Randy Hillier is looking out for himself now that he’s an independent,” says Jacob Robbins-Kanter, a PhD candidate in Canadian Politics at Queen’s University.
“But, regardless, I think that these are positive changes on balance, in terms of giving more abilities for independents to fundraise.”
While these amendments came after a two-year process, Hillier says there still is a ways to go to achieve true equality for independent members at Queen’s Park.