Developers relieved Toronto politicians will stop hounding them for donations

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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Will civic politicians in Vancouver be restricted from begging for cash from local developers?

We've talked a lot about campaign finance reform on this blog over the last year. For example, Vision Vancouver Councillor Raymond Louie's reluctance to disclose who donated to his mayoral bid campaign, and the fact Manitoba banned corporate and union donations to civic campaigns. In addition, we've helped to shed light through our Know Your Donor series about who the people are funding some of Vancouver's top politicos. In the coming weeks we'll be analyzing the public disclosure documents from Vision Vancouver (assuming they ever file them) of who attended their successful fundraising dinner at the Wall Centre last month.

The most recent city to open the debate regarding campaign contributions is Toronto, which is on the verge of restricting corporate and union donations in time for next year's election. Ironically, the development community are praising the move as they have been bombarded by politicians begging for cash over the years. They hope the new restrictions will limit how many times civic politicians can knock on their door with their hand out.

Stephen Dupuis, the guy who leads the Building Industry and Land Development Association (aka developers) told the Toronto Star he's fine with the ban:

I don't think the development community would care if there was a rule that said they couldn't contribute. The amount of solicitation letters we get from municipal politicians is just stackable. It's not that developers are pushing money out the door. It's dealing with relentless requests.

 According to the Star:

A study by York University Professor Robert MacDermid found municipal elections across Greater Toronto are largely financed by corporations, many of them developers.

The pattern varies from city to city, MacDermid found. In Toronto, corporate donations made up only 12 per cent of total contributions for city council candidates. In Pickering, by contrast, 77 per cent of contributions came from corporations, and in Vaughan, 63 per cent.

At a recent public meeting hosted by former NPA candidate Michael Geller, the topic of political donations came up. Here is an excerpt from my colleague Mike Klassen's overview of the event:

Jim Green, as loquacious as ever, asked "where else do developers and labour unions work so well together as they do with Vision Vancouver?" Michael Geller responded with one of the great zingers of the morning by responding, "In virtually every city around the world where political donations have influence!"

Even casual political observers watching Vancouver's last two civic election campaigns understands  that spending is now out of control. The two major political parties are spending well in excess of one million dollars to win seats on council. Even Raymond Louie's failed leadership bid cost him in excess of $200K.

The Province of BC has announced they will be looking into campaign finance reform in time for the 2011 election. We'll keep you posted on how that transpires. In the meantime, there are likely a lot of Vancouver developers hoping the Premier makes good on restricting donations to civic politicos. It could mean a lot less begging for cash starting about 12 months from now as the campaign begins.

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