Votes for Change Wash Over Lake Simcoe Watershed
Majority of elected were challengers
New release from Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition
Analysis of election results and Campaign Fairness’ poll results shows that around Lake Simcoe voters elected a high number of challengers, and that candidates who accepted corporate and union donations fared better in the election than those who said that they would not accept them.
In the 96 contested elected offices in 13 municipalities included in Campaign Fairness’ study, half were won by challengers and half by incumbents, a very high rate of turnover. In contrast, in 2006 in the “905” 78% of the winners were incumbents, according to York University researcher Robert MacDermid. In Monday’s Toronto election just one of 37 incumbents was defeated.
“This high level of turnover is surprising,” says MacDermid. “Many voters wanted change and perhaps throwing incumbents out of office is related to discontent with long commuting times, inadequate and expensive public transit and other problems partly caused by the rapid spread of poorly planned development we have seen all around Lake Simcoe.”
Campaign Fairness Manager Claire Malcolmson says, “Two very important races for Mayor were won by environmentally-oriented candidates against incumbent Mayors. Margaret Quirk in Georgina beat incumbent Mayor Robert Grossi, and in Bradford West Gwillimbury, farmer and activist turned politician Rob Keffer beat Mayor Doug White. In Georgina, Quirk ran on a platform of protecting the North Gwillimbury Forest from development. In Bradford Keffer had issued a challenge to all Bradford West Gwillimbury candidates to reject campaign contributions from developers.”
Campaign Fairness asked candidates across 13 municipalities to voluntarily pledge not to accept corporate and union contributions because those contributions influence election results, and, Campaign Fairness charges, that is a distortion of the democratic process. 101 of the 320 candidates in the study did not respond to Campaign Fairness’ poll. Of the remainder, 79% agreed that they would not accept corporate or union funding for their campaigns, 15% said they they would accept such support, and the remaining candidates were undecided. The numbers show that a clear majority (54%) of all candidates reject corporate funding.
The analysis supports one of the main claims of Campaign Fairness, that those candidates, and particularly challengers, who are funded by corporate and union contributions, largely development industry contributions as research shows, have a better chance of being elected than those who refuse such funding. Challengers who said that they would accept corporate and union contributions were more likely to be elected than those who refused them. Of challengers who pledged not to take corporate or union contributions, only 18% won, while 32% of challengers who said no to the pledge won. Those challengers who accepted corporate cash, were almost twice as likely to be elected as those who did not, showing the power of the development industry to help elect their chosen candidates.
For incumbents, the source of funding made very little difference to campaign success, as one should expect, since incumbency brings recognition that funding cannot easily buy.
“This is the same pattern we have seen across many GTA cities and 4 or 5 elections. To know the full extent of develop industry influence, we’ll have to wait until the candidate campaign financial statements are made public five months from now. At the very least, Campaign Fairness raises important issues and sends a message to winners that citizens are watching for connections between who funds their campaigns and the kinds of planning decisions they support,” said MacDermid.
“Despite some high profile wins by environmentally-oriented candidates, and the surprisingly high turnover of Councils, corporate contributions still significantly affect election outcomes,” says Robert Eisenberg, Campaign Fairness founder. “I believe our Councils would be even more representative and fair if contributions from corporations and unions were banned across all Ontario municipalities.”
Campaign Fairness pointed out during the election that we have at least four different campaign finance laws in Ontario, e.g. federal, provincial, municipal, City of Toronto, but only one democracy.
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is a Lake wide citizen umbrella organization formed to be an effective advocate for the restoration and protection of the environmental health and quality of Lake Simcoe. www.rescuelakesimcoe.org
Campaign Fairness asks candidates and voters to reject corporate and union donations to municipal election campaigns, to protect Ontario’s green space and water quality. www.campaignfairness.com