TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted Friday that Ontario cabinet ministers do have fundraising quotas after ducking the question for most of the week.
The Liberals are accused of selling access to cabinet ministers at high-priced dinners and cocktail receptions for lobbyists, and Wynne promises to introduce new rules on political donations by the fall, but not to implement them before the next election in 2018.
She had refused to confirm that cabinet ministers have individual fundraising targets of up to $500,000, but was pressed on the issue again Friday.
“We’re a team, and those conversations (are) between the ministers and the fundraising (managers), we don’t necessarily have a joint conversation about what everyone’s target is,” Wynne said at an Ottawa news conference. “We know that there’s an overall objective in terms of what we need to run the party, and we all do our bit.”
However, Wynne wouldn’t say what that overall fundraising objective is for the Liberals.
“You’ll have to talk to the party,” she said. “It’s the party that raises the money. It’s the party that works with all the members to support their fundraising efforts, and it’s the same for all of the parties at the provincial level.”
The Liberal Party of Ontario did not immediately respond to queries about its fundraising goal each year.
Ontario is looking at the federal political donation rules, which have much lower maximum limits than the province, and also have an outright ban on contributions from companies and unions.
“We are going to be looking at the federal model, where corporate and union donations have been disallowed, and that’s where we’re going,” said Wynne. “There will be a transition into that, and that plan will be brought forward in the fall.”
Wynne said the new rules will also address so-called third party advertising. In recent Ontario elections, unions joined together under the Working Families banner and spent more than any political party to buy attack ads against the Progressive Conservatives.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath doesn’t want Wynne and the Liberals to come up with new political donation rules without input from the opposition parties, the chief electoral officer and the public. But Wynne suggested her political opponents can react to the changes the government makes, but not have input as they’re drafted.
“We will be bringing forward a plan that there’ll be commentary from all sides,” she said. “I’ll be interested to hear their commentary.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown wrote Wynne a letter Friday saying he agreed with Horwath. He is calling on the legislature to strike an all-party committee on Monday to gather public input on fundraising and advertising reforms.
The federal contribution rules are simple: people can 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, people, 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. One young man made a single donation of $100,000 to former Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Christine Elliott in 2014.
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