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Voters across Canada will have best gov't big money can buy

Today, Democracy Watch lamented the fact that, no matter which party wins the Ontario election, wealthy interests will have been able to use too-large donations of up to $31,000 to buy influence with the provincial government and during the provincial election.

Democracy Watch criticized the Ontario Liberals for breaking their 2003 election promise to democratize Ontario's political finance system. The organization called on all the parties to make democratizing changes after the election, and to disclose every donation they have received during the election by Sunday morning so voters at least can find out who bankrolled them before they vote. Parties in the other provinces, and the territories, should do the same, including for their municipal elections.

"By breaking their 2003 election promise to democratize Ontario's political finance system, Dalton McGuinty's Liberals are allowing wealthy interests to continue to have undue influence over the next provincial government through too large and secret donations and spending during elections," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the nation-wide Money in Politics Coalition. "It is illegal for athletes to make large donations to referees, and as in some other provinces it should be illegal for anyone to make large donations to politicians."

The Ontario Liberals' November 18, 2004 news release that echoed the 2003 election promise could be found on the website of the so-called Ontario Democratic Renewal Secretariat (which no longer exists) and it stated:

"The Premier also announced that a citizens' jury will be asked to make recommendations to the government regarding changes in how provincial political parties and election campaigns are financed. 'It's not enough for our decisions to be beyond the influence of political contributions,' the Premier said.'They must be perceived to be beyond the influence of political contributions.'"

Premier McGuinty never set up the citizen jury, and the only changes the Liberals made to the donations system was to require donations to parties (only) to be disclosed within 10 days.

The problems with Ontario's political finance system are clear, and it would have taken little time for a citizen jury process to develop proposals to correct its many undemocratic flaws, as follows.

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