Overall, a majority of responding candidates have stated that they will not accept corporate or union donations. However, several incumbent councillors running for re-election defend their 'right' to accept such donations.
By Ryan McGreal
Published October 19, 2010
In the 2006, Hamilton Municipal Election, Citizens at City Hall issued a challenge to candidates to voluntarily refuse corporate and union donations. The responses at the time were varied but tended to fall into three categories: committing to the pledge; supporting it in principle but noting that committing to it would put them at a competitive disadvantage; and rejecting the premise that corporate and union donations are a problem.
That may have changed after Fred Eisenberger ran his successful mayoral campaign on a shoestring budget that did not accept corporate or union donations.
However, the Provincial Government has yet to issue a province-wide ban on corporate and union donations to municipal elections. In municipalities ringing the GTA, the influence of property developers is a serious and ongoing problem that distorts municipal politics in the direction of unrestricted sprawl.
For the 2010 municipal election, the first question that RTH posed to candidates was:
Of the 83 candidates who have not withdrawn their candidacy, 65 - or 78.3% - responded. 26, or 40% of the respondents, said "Yes", 38, or 58.5% of the respondents, said "No", and one declined to provide a definitive answer. You can read all the candidate responses on the RTH election site.
Nearly all of the 12 mayoral candidates who responded declared that they would not accept corporate or union donations.
Michael Baldasaro responded that he will not accept any donations at all, "because I do not believe in begging, i.e. putting my hand in the pockets of those I am looking to represent and enrich".
Bob Bratina continues to accept only personal donations, explaining, "This is becoming the accepted practice among constituencies that wish to ensure minimal corporate and union influence on Councillors' decisions."
Mahesh Butani believes "elections should be conducted with an entirely different approach if we are at all expecting to see substantive changes in outcomes."
Larry Di Ianni is "confident that we will be able to raise the funds we need to run our campaign from individual donors throughout the community."
Fred Eisenberger notes, "While corporations and unions play important roles in our society, individual members of our community are my priority."
Edward HC Graydon believes "taking any contributions will distract from the idea to serve all voters fairly." He argues that anyone running for mayor should "have the personal funds to run" without campaign contributions.
Andrew Haines believes "by accepting a corporate or union donation would leave me vulnerable to the influence of the donor and would, thus, create a conflict of interest for me, before I even get started."
Glenn Hamilton is the only mayoral candidate who will accept corporate and union donations, explaining, "I need all the help I can get for my grassroots campaign! I am up against two career politicians and their formidable campaign machines".
Ken Leach writes, "With past mayoral races in mind, the question that you ask is obvious. I do not wish to dissuade voters by leaving the impression that I am pro-business, or pro-union. I am pro-people."
Tone Marrone believes the role of mayor means "to serve the constituents, not the private sector."
Gino Speziale argues, "donations from the these two organizations is only a short term investment on their part for long time returns."
Victor Veri does "do not want to feel beholden to contributors. I want to make free thinking decisions."
Incumbents number prominently among the 26 respondents who are accepting corporate and/or union donations, though not all incumbents are accepting them. Among the incumbents running for re-election, only two stated that they are not accepting such donations.
Brian McHattie, candidate for Ward 1, notes that he did not accept corporate or union donations for his campaigns in 2003 or 2006 and is not now. "The reason is that these organizations have had undue influence (and continue to do so, primarily housing developers) at City Hall".
Russ Powers, candidate for Ward 13 (Dundas), does not accept corporate or union donations and did not in his previous municipal campaigns.
Bernie Morelli, candidate for Ward 3, did not clearly answer whether he would accept corporate or union donations, noting that as of his response, he was self-financing his campaign and will "file a final report and follow the rules as outlined in the Municipal Elections Act."
Sam Merulla, candidate for Ward 4, is accepting corporate and union donations "because it is legal and permitted."
Scott Duvall, candidate for Ward 7, "will be honoured to accept any donations to my campaign that citizens and supporters are prepared to give me." He notes that it the "right" of corporations and unions to "support the candidate of their choice".
Terry Whitehead, candidate for Ward 8, "will be following the rules of the Municipal Elections Act."
Brad Clark, candidate for Ward 9, "will be abiding by the Municipal Elections Act." He adds that his campaign will review every donation before accepting it.
David Mitchell, candidate for Ward 11, notes "By law, a corporation has the same rights as a single individual to make donations to candidates." He adds, "I do not wish to discriminate."
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