Premier Kathleen Wynne is considering enacting stricter rules for byelection fundraising before introducing broader reforms this spring.
Wynne has promised to introduce legislation to ban corporate and union donations, among other changes, amid public outcry over political fundraising in Ontario and targets set for Liberal cabinet ministers.
She is meeting Monday with the opposition leaders to discuss what changes they would like to see, and Wynne said Friday that it’s not reasonable for parties to raise more money in the context of a byelection than they are allowed to spend on that race.
“I think we need to look at what should the rules around raising money for byelections be, vis a vis the rest of the fundraising and I think we need to talk about should they be isolated,” she said in Barrie.
“If you’re raising money for the byelection, you’re raising money for the byelection and you raise the amount that you need for the byelection.”
Current rules allow individuals, companies and unions to donate $9,775 to a party each year, another $9,975 to the party for each campaign period _ including byelections _ 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.
The Liberals raised $1.6 million during a byelection this year in Whitby-Oshawa, $2.7 million in last year’s Simcoe North byelection _ even though they lost those two races _ and $2.2 million in a Sudbury byelection last year. The money raised during byelections last year brought their 2015 donations to just over $9 million.
The spending limits in the Whitby-Oshawa byelection were about $89,000 for a political party and about $142,000 for the candidate and their riding association.
Wynne will have to call another byelection in the coming months because of the recent resignation of Liberal Bas Balkissoon. That vote could happen before the fundraising reform legislation can pass.
Wynne said she will ask the opposition leaders on Monday if they think byelection fundraising rules should be changed before she introduces legislation this spring.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said the byelection fundraising and expenses are the type of “loopholes” he would like to see addressed.
“I think the rules need to be a lot stronger,” he said Friday. “They obviously drove a truck through that loophole and I think all political parties fundraise more than the byelection and so this is one of many loopholes that need to be cleaned up.”
The Tories raised $846,000 during the Whitby-Oshawa race, and $6.7 million in 2015, including $3.6 million during the leadership contest that Brown won and $993,000 during the Simcoe North byelection in which Brown won a seat.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has called on Wynne to include Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer in the process of establishing new rules.
The NDP raised $51,300 during the Whitby-Oshawa byelection and just over $1.8 million in 2015, including the two byelections.