Municipal Election 2006

Fair Election Financing Now

Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) urges voters and candidates to take steps now to make the November 13 city council election more democratic, fair and transparent.

By RTH Staff
Published August 30, 2006

Last week, Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) launched a campaign to make the November 13 city council election more democratic fair, and transparent. We at Raise the Hammer support this initiative completely. Today, money confers far too much influence over the results of municipal elections, skewing the elected representatives in favour of developer interests and distorting the local political process.

The Ontario Municipal Elections Act is a good start toward making local elections more fair and democratic, but while it allows for citizens to challenge campaign finance abuses after the fact, it does not go far enough in forcing candidates to be open and transparent about their donors before voting day.

When an elected mayor can break the law and accept over $30,000 in illegal donations, only to get off with a light fine and a reprimand, we at RTH believe democracy cannot flourish fully. The CATCH campaign is a fair way to bridge the gaps in our election law and make candidates more accountable to voters.

With permission from CATCH, we reproduce the entire CATCH pledge below.

Fair Election Financing Now

Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) urges voters and candidates to take steps now to make the November 13 city council election more democratic, fair and transparent.

Despite promises to do so, the provincial government has failed to amend the deeply flawed legislation on donations to municipal candidates. That leaves the task to the candidates and the voters to make this election fairer.

CATCH calls on ALL city council candidates:

  • To make public a list of your donors and donations over $100 before the November 13 elections;
  • To accept campaign donations only from individuals, not from corporations or unions.
  • If you do accept corporate or union contributions, to make a public promise before the election to not participate in decisions that come before council that financially benefit your corporate or union donors.

CATCH calls on all citizens in Hamilton:

  • To make donations to council candidates and to actively participate in the election campaign in support of the candidates of your choice;
  • To vote and to actively encourage others to vote in the November 13 election;
  • To ask all candidates to support the campaign for Fair Election Financing Now.

CATCH calls on all organizations, voters and candidates:

  • To endorse and publicize the above calls;
  • To urge provincial politicians to reform the laws on municipal election financing.

Governments are elected to represent citizens and the public interest. CATCH believes that corporate and union donations distort this process and deny the principle that each voter has an equal opportunity to support the candidates of his or her choice.

When corporate or union donations are permitted, some individuals can unfairly make multiple donations - as individuals and also as business owners or union members. Many of the corporate donations are written off as business expenses and force taxpayers to cover part of the donation.

In addition, many corporations and unions ask city government to make decisions that benefit them financially. Politicians who receive donations from corporations or unions should not participate in government decisions that affect their corporate or union donors.

Many others have called for real reforms to election finances, including Toronto city council, the Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods, the Hamilton and District Labour Council, and the Toronto Star. We think improvements are possible now, without waiting for the province to do its job, and we are willing to help.

To help candidates, CATCH is prepared to assist candidates to make their donations and donors public before the election. We are offering to post their lists our website or to provide a link to another location of these lists. We ask candidates to provide these three times before election day - September 15, October 15 and November 10.

Provincial law currently requires candidates to reveal publicly a list of all donors who give them more than $100. Unfortunately, this is not required until four months AFTER the election. In the United States, candidates must reveal who their donors are BEFORE the election, so that this information is available to the voters when they cast their vote.

CATCH thinks that citizens should help finance the election campaigns of the candidates of their choice. If you are concerned about corporate and union influence over politicians, an excellent response is to financially support good candidates, and to volunteer to work on their campaigns.

We urge you to vote on election day, and to popularize the CATCH campaign for Fair Election Financing Now.

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