Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario's Election Finance Reform Legislation Unanimously Passes

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario's Election Finance Reform Legislation Unanimously Passes

Article excerpt

New fundraising law passes unanimously

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TORONTO - Ontario politicians now have one month left to get in a last kick at the fundraising can before they are banned from attending such events.

Legislation that dramatically alters the political fundraising landscape in Ontario unanimously passed Thursday, including banning corporate and union donations and lowering individual donation limits.

Though all parties voted in favour of it, the leaders of the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP were quick to point out that the Liberals introduced the bill in the first place amid a cash-for-access scandal.

The governing party was harshly criticized over fundraising events that saw cabinet ministers attend private, high-priced functions with stakeholders.

Under the new law, which comes into effect Jan. 1, members of provincial parliament, candidates, party leaders, nomination contestants, leadership contestants, chiefs of staff, premier's staff and other party leaders' staff are all banned from attending fundraisers.

Politicians could still, however, attend events where the ticket price only recovers the cost of hosting it, and solicit funds by mail, phone or email.

That strikes NDP Leader Andrea Horwath as a significant loophole.

"You ban MPPs, cabinet ministers, from doing that direct ask, if you will, at a fundraiser...but you don't stop them from picking up the phone and having the exact same conversation," she said.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi was not able to clearly explain Thursday the difference between soliciting donations in person and over the phone, and why one would be banned but the other accepted.

"Unless you're suggesting that there should be no fundraising and political parties can only fund elections by getting money through public subsidy, that's a whole different question," he said. "Of course, there has to be some mechanism to raise funds. …

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