Shameful and shameless: Wynne’s fundraising quotas for ministers
The news, revealed by Martin Regg Cohn in the Toronto Star last week – that provincial cabinet ministers are assigned fundraising quotas, and are in trouble if they don’t rake in enough money for the Ontario Liberal Party – was very shocking.
It showed how much the representative system of democracy has been corrupted. The people who are elected to represent us, don’t. They represent their party. And in order for those in charge of the party to keep their jobs in cabinet, they are explicitly required to carry out their responsibilities in a shameful and shameless manner.
They are required to beg.
Would that their activity was as honorable as that of the panhandler on the street. He promises nothing. The choice to give or not is yours. The transaction is simple.
Charity, however, is the last thought on the mind of the minister of the crown when she puts out her hand. This is commerce. And it’s not as if she will be happy to get a toonie. The minister is already being paid by you and me, the taxpayer – but that’s small change compared to the amounts the minister is looking for.
So, the target benefactor has to have deep pockets. An acknowledged part of the transaction is that the benefactor is looking for something in return. Your relationship with the panhandler is over. You walk away feeling vaguely good about yourself after handing over a toonie or two. But the minister’s benefactor (through a host of lawyers, lobbyists and p.r. flaks) is going to be there, daily, in the minister’s face.
Because the minister is the regulator, the person who can make it easy or onerous for the benefactor to make a profit. The minister is also the purse holder, who can disburse the taxpayers’ money for a multitude of undertakings that may or may not be necessary, that may be wasteful, that may even be destructive. It’s the minister who decides whether legislation should be changed, whether penalties can be eased, whether exemptions can be granted.
So many opportunities to return a favour.
And now, courtesy of Kathleen Wynne, the clincher: If the minister doesn’t do his part to raise the many millions required to keep the Ontario Liberals in power, said minister may lose his portfolio (according to Regg Cohn, Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid was in a panic at the end of 2015, because he hadn’t met his target). Fundraising may informally have been part of the deal in the past (reluctantly acknowledged as not ethical, tacitly accepted as a fact of life) but this quota makes the corruption explicit, principled behaviour prohibited. How disgusting.
It’s all too easy. Taxation automatically produces money from the general public. We elect representatives to use it wisely. But at election time, we are signing a blank cheque, not to the victorious candidate, but to the party that takes power. The party’s interest is to remain in power. The Wynne quota creates a closed loop, ensuring that ministers keep that goal as a top priority, regardless of how committed they are to discharging their responsibilities.
Anomalies like the Special Rule, that made the Midhurst Secondary Plan permissible although it violates dozens of government policies and regulations, can only proliferate in a system driven by handouts to the ruling party.
Another symptom of the same disease was Wynne’s sweeping exemptions to the Endangered Species Act which boost the profits of development, mining and logging activities but make survival much less likely for species that by definition are at risk of being lost as a presence on our landscape. Is the survival of the Ontario Liberal Party sufficient compensation for the disappearance of the Bobolink, the Blandings Turtle or the Woodland Caribou?
Then there’s this cautionary tale about the outsourcing of road maintenance on Ontario highways. One of the government’s contractors, Carillon Canada, is under investigation by the provincial transport ministry for whether failure to deploy salt spreaders and snow clearing equipment in a timely manner lay behind a series of accidents during a New Year’s Day storm. In this context, answers are needed on the waiving of $4.8 million of $13.3 million in fines levied against various road maintenance contractors in the winter of 2013-14 (reported by the provincial auditor general in April, 2015. Ask your MPP).
Most worrisome is the Bruce Power re-build deal. We are talking here about technology that has the potential to destroy life as we know it. We are talking about a private corporation that stands to gain billions in taxpayer dollars. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance has pointed out how wrong it is for Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli to refuse to make public the key clauses in the deal that will determine the real price we will pay for the next 49 years for power from Bruce’s reactors. Why the secrecy?
The trend to outsourcing of what were once considered vital government services, and allowing businesses to monitor themselves in order to check whether or not they are complying with the law, makes the Wynne quota system work so much better.
Longer terms in office – ostensibly to save money – in fact ensure that we the taxpayers lose track of what is being done. Shorter terms might save millions more than the cost of elections. We might have legislation that’s enforced – because benefactors are looking for more than a contract, they’re looking for circumstances that allow them to flourish and their competitors to suffer. Public vigilance makes for a level playing field.
But we don’t need to wait for the next election to raise our voices against corrupt practices and there’s no question, a quota that requires any elected official to raise money as part of the job is corrupt. Call or email Kathleen Wynne and your MPP and demand a change.