Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is in big trouble.
The Ontario Liberals, which she leads, have been caught trading their governmental powers for cash.
At the end of March, the Toronto Star revealed that each of Wynne’s provincial cabinet ministers had an individual target for raising money for the Ontario Liberals. The more powerful the cabinet minister (ie the Minister of Finance), the higher their target.
Wynne has been disgraced. Since getting caught, she has hastily and hypocritically proposed sweeping legislative changes to campaign and political party funding in Ontario, including banning donations from corporations and unions, and putting a $1500 annual cap on what someone can donate personally.
Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia have already banned corporate donations to political parties, but have wildly varying individual donor limits.
When it comes to the Canadian government, corporations and unions are not allowed to donate to any federal party or candidate, and the maximum you can personally donate to a candidate is $1525.
Here’s a snapshot of what political donations look like across the provinces, including the federal limits from Elections Canada:
In the April 14th edition of the Globe and Mail editorial, Saskatchewan is raked over the coals for allowing corporations, unions and people – from anywhere in the world – to pour limitless amounts of cash into our provincial political parties.
But let’s not kid ourselves – the corporate and individual donor’s money is pouring into the Sask Party, not the NDP.
“Saskatchewan, the source province of some of Canada’s most progressive politics and politicians, is remarkably regressive when it comes to the influence of money on a democracy,” it read.
In fact, until limits are imposed, the G&M’s conclusion is:
“…(Brad Wall’s) government will be tainted by its reliance on corporate donors, and by the perception that some of its policies may be developed with those donors’ interests in mind.”
So, does that really happen? When it comes to the Saskatchewan government, does money talk?
Well, let’s have a look at the numbers, and you tell me.
Using 2007, an election year, as a jumping off point, we see the NDP’s contributions from individuals were $1.38 million, with the largest cash infusion from an individual ($5900) coming from Gordon Nystuen, former Calvert chief of staff, who at that time was a vice-president at SaskPower.
You could consider that a valiant effort to keep his job, but ultimately the Sask Party took over, and he got fired.
The NDP took $600k in corporate donations in 2007 – though well over half of that was a loan from Affinity Credit Union (until loans are paid back, they’re counted as donations). Their next largest donor group was the energy industry, who ponied up approximately $90K, including $10K from Nexen and $11K from TransCanada Pipeline (think Keystone and Energy East).
By contrast the Sask Party, in that pivotal electoral year of 2007, brought in $1.6 million in individual donations, and $3 million from corporations.
The second highest individual amount came from a guy who is now vice-chair of Sask Power’s Board of Directors.
The Sask Party’s top corporate donor in 2007 was Millenium III Properties at $78K, which I’m guessing would be in-kind office space. In second place was Concorde Group, with $52K. Oil companies donated that year, but it honestly wasn’t crazy amounts, and they certainly weren’t top donors.
Once the Sask Party formed government, here’s how political donations from individuals compared til recently:
So two-thirds of the cash in this province personally donated to political parties was donated to the Sask Party.
Absolutely nothing stood out to me in respect to the NDP’s individual donors, beyond the fact that the party’s largest single donors between 2006 and 2014 are dead, dead, dead and dead – amounts bequeathed from estates.
Brad Wall was the Sask Party’s top donor in four out of 8 years. Kevin Doherty was their top donor in 2010.
In 2011 the Sask Party received their largest donation from an individual named Allan Markin, for $70K. More on him later.
In 2014 they received their second highest individual donation, around $31K, from Glen Dow, the Reeve of the RM of Wilton, and yes, in my mind that should be considered an issue.
Further, according to the good Reeve’s bio on the RM’s website, he “serves on Capital Purchases committee, Economic Development committee, SARM and government lobby, Subdivision Application Review, Regional Landfill, the Northwest Municipalities Association and many others.”
So yeah, I have to wonder about a guy who is the second highest individual donor to the Sask Party and puts “government lobby” right on his flipping bio.
Bottom line is that the vast majority of individual donors to the Sask Party donated in low amounts (less than $1500 – which yes, in the world of political donations is low), by way of registering in golf tournaments and attending Premier’s dinners.
That’s not exactly cool, however, given that what you’re buying is not a $300 round of golf or delicious (sarcasm) prime beef dinner at your local convention centre. Instead, you’re buying the privilege of rubbing shoulders with government decision makers.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $600 lying around so me and my plus one can shake Nancy Heppner’s
cold, dead hand. In fact, since the average number of individual donors to the Sask Party is around 10,000, it seems 99 per cent of us don’t have the cash or inclination to attend these events, thereby missing our opportunity to buy our way in to the chance to use the urinal next to Don Morgan.
So you tell me – so far, do you think we might have an ethical issue with individual political donations from the good people of Saskatchewan?
Is just the fact we have to ask, a problem?
You likely don’t need me to tell you how corporate donations shake out, but I’m going to anyway in Part 2 of this discussion, which will probably come later today, because a) I have to do something today that actually earns me some cash; and b) I have to first go be parent-helper (kill me now) at my kid’s preschool this morning. So check back.