Once again the business person, the developer, the entrepreneur is treated like a second class citizen in the eyes of the decision makers – at least, that's the perception that's been created by Queen's Park in its latest attempt to tinker with rules and regulations governing the way we elect our mayor and members of council.
Here's the story: late last week, the provincial government announced it's tightening rules for candidate fundraising in the next municipal election. Under the newly introduced legislation, those getting involved in the municipal process by contributing to campaigns can continue to give up to $750 per candidate but total donations would be capped at $5,000 within a single municipality. And they didn't stop there – the process now requires electronic filing, which will put the donations online.
As anyone could have predicted, the comments on this move in the media focused on the need for the province to go even further. The call for a ban on all corporate donations echoed throughout most major Ontario dailies. The implication of this legislation and other initiatives that will no doubt follow is that corporations, businesspeople and developers are evil people using their dirty money to grease their way to whatever municipal work they want.
That is not only insulting to the business community; it is insulting to all municipally elected councillors across the province. The implication is that city councillors will let the businessperson have his or her way at city hall for $750.
What these rules and regulations and the implications that come with them are doing is driving the business sector away from involvement in the municipal election process. Why would anyone ever want to contribute to an election campaign when the first thing the media does is refer to the contribution list? It is a fairly simple way to come up with a story linking a campaign contribution to a business win with city council. It gets headlines and sells newspapers and it doesn't take a lot of work.
My advice to corporations, businesses, developers is not to get involved in the process. -
Based on the attitude and the innuendos of this piece of legislation and the other ones to follow, my advice to corporations, businesses, developers is not to get involved in the process. Keep your hands in your pockets and continue to do business at city hall. No one will ever be able to accuse you of trying to buy your way to business.You won't have your name on a website linking you to a candidate. You will be in the clear.
The implications of this kind of mindset are extensive, if you go a step farther. If corporations, businesses and developers withdraw from the election scene, that will leave the highest office in the municipality open to the person with the largest bank account.
There was another piece to the legislation moved last week. This particular item would prevent municipal candidates from raising far more than was needed and banking the surplus for future campaigns. It is apparently designed to put an end to giving incumbents a built-in advantage going into an election and gives newcomers an equal shot.
So let me get this right – the same government which extended council terms to four years, making it difficult to defeat incumbents, has now moved legislation in the opposite direction.