Improving political fundraising regulations in Ontario, British Columbia and other provinces with outdated or overly opaque regulations doesn't have to be difficult or time consuming. Here are five easy fixes that would have immediate benefits.
1. Only voters should be able to donate
It seems obvious, but it's not currently the law in Ontario: If you're not eligible to vote in an election, you shouldn't be able to influence that election with your cash. Ban all donations from: corporations, trade unions and trustees for deceased person's estate, and from any anonymous sources.
You should be eligible to donate money, goods or services to a political party, candidate or constituency association, to support the election of a candidate to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario if you are a resident of Ontario currently eligible to vote in a provincial election.
2. Contribution limits should reflect voting rights
You can only vote in one location during an election, so you should only be able to donate in one electoral district. Currently you can donate to multiple candidates and multiple constituency associations in multiple electoral districts.
Politics is an expensive business and eliminating corporate/union donations will put financial stress on the political system until it adapts. Contribution limits are currently generous, but not ridiculous if the changes above are made. Most donors will donate to only one candidate, party or constituency association, unless they are very wealthy and donating to competing candidates, parties, etc. in order to "support the democratic process."
In Ontario, for example, you should be able to donate:
- Up to a total of $9,975 to the central fund(s) of one or more registered political parties, in any year.
- An additional amount up to a total of $9,975 to the central fund(s) of one or more registered political parties, for each campaign (writ) period.
- Up to a total of $6,650 annually to registered constituency associations, but not more than $1,330 to a single constituency association, in the electoral district in which you are eligible to vote.
- Up to a total of $6,650 to registered candidates, but not more than $1,330 to a single candidate, in the electoral district in which you are eligible to vote, during a campaign (writ) period.
3. Elections are for parties, candidates & voters to decide
Third Party advertising and communication campaigns are common tactics used to "work-around" legal limits on political spending during election campaigns. All Third Party issue-based/political paid communication during the writ period should be banned. This would clear the field for candidates and their parties to communicate with voters directly and within lawful limits.
Attempting to impose spending limits on Third Party communication during writ periods has proven ineffective; Special interest campaigns simply share costs among allies and subsidiary/related organizations. This limit on a Third Party's freedom of speech, however, should not extend beyond the campaign period.
Third Parties should be allowed to spend whatever they want on issue-based/political communication outside a campaign (writ) period. But, all issues-based/political communication/spending by Third Parties during a campaign (writ) period should be banned.
4. Be proud of funding democracy
If you donated $250 to the Rhino Party or $8,000 to the Liberals, there's nothing to be ashamed of.
All donations, from every donor, should be reported to the respective provincial/federal elections authority -- on a regular and frequent basis (not less than quarterly.) These reports should be publicly accessible on the Internet.
5. More Canadians should be encouraged to donate
Currently, only the very wealthy and those people actively involved in political parties are likely to maximize their political contributions, despite a relatively generous tax credit for political donations (of up to 75 per cent) from both the federal and provincial government. Ontario's tax credit is refundable, though the federal credit is not. My proposed changes would likely reduce the maximum political contribution made by a partisan donor in Ontario (i.e. one who supports one party/candidate only) by up to $10,640.
To encourage broader participation in political donations, governments should consider making tax credits for political donations more generous, though this would come at a cost to the taxpayer.
How hard is that?
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