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OPINION: The murky world of political donations

Published on

George Mathewson

When a list of the top 30 political donors in Ontario was revealed last week the biggest surprise for me was Adam Moryto.

And who is Adam Moryto?

Well, according to his profile on social media, Moryto is a hip, 25-year-old actor who served as a Queen’s Park intern and studied business at Western University.

So it was intriguing to see his name – the one and only individual – on a spreadsheet identifying the largest contributors to Ontario political parties since 2013.

He gave no money to the Liberals or the NDP but contributed $129,925 to the Conservatives, making him the third largest PC party supporter in Ontario.

Go figure.

Another surprise was that 14 of the top 30 were unions. Leading the way, the Plumbers and Pipefitters at No. 1 and the Carpenters and Joiners at No. 2. Between them they contributed nearly $1 million to all three parties, with about 75% of it going to the Liberals.

The third-largest donor was an association that represents landlords (which primarily supported the Liberals and PCs) followed by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (largely Liberal and PC), and a group representing ethanol producers (Liberals, come on down).

It’s a fascinating document, and kudos to the CBC and reporter Mike Crawley for compiling it. It’s the first time any media outlet has crunched the numbers to reveal the big picture of who’s greasing the wheels of Ontario’s political system.

Tracking and tabulating the small donations recorded by Elections Ontario, and repeating the process for every major donor across Ontario, would have been tedious and time consuming.

But do donations really influence policy? Is it a rigged system?

In the always-murky world of political fundraising it’s difficult to point to cause and effect, but clearly the donors think it works or they wouldn’t be so ready to peel bills off the big roll.

“Political donations do not buy policy decisions in my government,” Premier Kathleen Wynne insisted recently. “Any innuendo or suggestion to the opposite is false.”

Nevertheless, her government is preparing to introduce legislation that it says will ban corporate and union donations starting next January, and sharply reduce the maximum donation by individuals.

Critics say the new rules would just make it harder for opposition parties to catch the Liberals in fundraising by the next election, because they’ve taken in more money than the NDP and PCs combined over the past 16 months.

But I think the Wynne Liberals, on this issue at least, deserve some credit for trying. Limiting the hidden pull of vested interests would be, in the long run, in the best interest of all Ontarians.

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