Ontario NDP: 8 points for an open, independent and credible reform process.

Ontario’s New Democrats believe that the democratic process must be free of the influence or the perception of influence of big money. Sadly, today many Ontarians do not believe this to be the case.  Changes in how we finance our political process are clearly long overdue. Those changes start with banning corporate and union donations, a change fully supported by the Ontario NDP.

In order to be successful in setting those rules Ontario needs a process that is beyond reproach, and recognizes the valuable role civil society plays in our democratic process.

Ontario NDP: 8 points for an open, independent and credible process.

The Ontario Advisory Panel on Political Finance Reform and Electoral Participation

  1. The Ontario Legislature immediately establish by unanimous consent motion a committee to be chaired by an independent, non-elected person selected from a list of candidates prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer (C.E.O).  The selection will be by consensus of the Legislature and should no consensus be reached, the appointment will be made by the CEO.
  2. Membership of the committee is to include an equal number of representatives from Ontario’s Liberal Party, Green Party, Progressive Conservative Party and New Democratic Party.
  3. In addition, a number of committee members representing civil society including labour, business, NGOs and academia equal to the total number of political party members on the committee.
  4. The committee shall have as its mandate the development of recommendations regarding rules governing the financing of political parties and electoral participation, the rules governing third party advertising and the timing and method of transition to the new rules.
  5. The committee will hold public hearings throughout the province.
  6. The committee will table in the Legislature, no later than September 30 2016 a report including its recommendations on the new rules governing political party financing and electoral participation.
  7. These recommendations will form the basis for Legislation.
  8. The Chief Electoral Officer will serve as secretary to the committee with Elections Ontario providing administrative and budget support.

Ontarians must believe that the system is fair and free of the influence of big money. They must be confident that no one party has created a regime to their specific advantage. As noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004 ruling on Harper v. Canada regarding third party spending,

“Electoral fairness is key. Where Canadians perceive elections to be unfair, voter apathy follows shortly thereafter.”[1]

People need confidence that the rules were not created in such a way as to benefit a single political party or group of Ontarians. Strong public approval will provide political parties with a strong incentive to maintain and respect this new regulatory framework, and change it only when there is strong process and strong public approval.

We believe this process must:

  • be truly independent;
  • directly involve all political parties in Ontario with over 3 % of the vote in the 2014 general election;
  • involve civil society in developing the new rules;
  • be timely;
  • be transparent; and
  • strive for the greatest consensus possible.

Any major reform to how our democracy functions clearly cannot be left to the regular legislative process where a single political party may use its legislative majority to implement the system of its choice. 

Nor should any major electoral reform be left solely in the hands of Ontario’s three largest political parties.

Ontarians, Ontario’s civil society and Ontario’s political parties will benefit from a fair and stable set of rules governing election financing. Stability, trust and confidence will only come if Ontarians believe the process is fair. The only way to guarantee that the process is seen as fair is for it to be as independent and transparent as possible.

 

 Background:

  • In 1975 Premier Bill Davis established a Commission on Election Finances which was made up of nine members, including:
    - nominees of the three main political parties;
    - the Chief Electoral Officer;
    - a member of the board of governors with the Law Society of Upper Canada; and
    - and a chair appointed by the Lieutenant Governor.
    - All members were forbidden to be candidates, contributors, party officers, or members of the assembly.
  • In 1998 the Commission on Election Finances was  disbanded by then Premier Mike Harris.
  • On June 15, 1998 Jim Bradley called this unilateral change an,  “anti-democratic strategy, hatched in the back rooms of the Premier's office.”
  • On June 22, 1998, John Gerretsen said; “[t]hat is a tragedy, because I think if there is one thing that we owe to future generations, it's certainly the fact that our electoral system, the manner in which we elect governments every four or five years, is done in a fair and open and straightforward manner.  What's happening here is that the governing party that happens to be in power at any one time is going to have a distinct advantage above the normal advantages of incumbency. That simply isn't fair, and I hope the people of Ontario will speak out about this.”
  • Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty told reporters the issue was “[s]imple rules of fairness . . . you can't change the rules of the games without the consent of all the players involved."