Campaign finance law needs to reign in labour unions
Canada's elections law essentially allow ganging-up by anyone willing to establish a third-party campaign.
It's no secret. The 2011 federal election was a splendid example of an attempt to do this, as dozens of far-left campaigns sprung up, eager to defeat the governing Conservative Party through the organization of strategic voting and, in some cases, outright lies.
So long as registered third-party campaigns are willing to stick the truth, they for the most part present no great dilemma for campaign finance law. At least not at the federal level.
At the provincial level, however, particularly in Ontario, it seems that there is a problem. A big one.
In Ontario, it seems that third-party campaigns face no spending limits, allowing some third-party campaigns to essentially gang up and bully the provincial Progressive Conservative Party, who are subject to spending limits and cannot effectively defend themselves.
The Working Families Coalition is the most publicly-known example. It claims to be independent of the Liberal Party, but was in fact directly organized by the Liberals. Another example that comes to mind is the "No Gun, No Funeral" campaign organized and operated out of then-Attorney General Michael Bryant's campaign offices.
In each case, Elections Ontario opted to ignore the undeniable connections between these organizations and the Ontario Liberal Party and treat them as an independent third-party. What had actually happened is that these groups allowed the Liberal Party of Ontario to breach campaign spending limits.
It's evidence that Elections Ontario is just as ill as Elections Canada, and needs the same overhaul of the people running the institution.
“The rule is too loose. We need the teeth of the federal rules if we’re to keep elections from being swayed,” remarked York University political science professor Robert MacDermid. He recently produced a report that demonstrates just how badly organizations like Labour Unions have abused the system in their bids to help out their partisan allies. (In the case of public service unions, this amounted to picking their own bosses.)
“The possibility of corruption is so much less,” MacDermid says of the federal campaign finance laws.
It's worth noting that the Coaliton for a Better Ontario came out on the side of the then-Mike Harris led Tories in 1999. Any connection between that organization and the Ontario Tories is unknown to this author, but just as troublesome if they existed.
MacDermid suggests the provincial Tories wouldn't complain if such a group were helping them, and he's likely right.
For Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's part, however, he's naturally pleased with the current status quo.
“We’ve got a great system here,” McGuinty remarked. “There are so many different avenues for people to give expression to their opinion. I believe in a strong collision of ideas.”
Unfortunately for McGuinty, that isn't what's happening right now, and he knows it full well. What is currently taking place is that his party has organized an environment in which they and the third-party campaigns they themselves organized can gang up on the PCs, whose own hands are tied.
Under the watch of the Dalton McGuinty Liberals, Ontario's lax rules on third-party campaigning have become a bully pulpit from which they can unfairly dominate their opponents. It needs to be stopped at the earliest opportunity.