Politics

Confused Donors, Confounded Voters

By Ben Bull
Published August 24, 2006

I find it quite extraordinary that Mayor Larry Di Ianni refuses to forgo donations from Corporations and disclose to us who his campaign contributors are.

Will this man never learn?

It is precisely this lack of discretion and concern that got him into this Municipal Elections Act mess in the first place. You'd think a date with the judge would help him see sense.

Of course it doesn't help that the province neglected to put into law the changes to the Act that would have made these measures mandatory. I guess we need a few more scandals before that's going to happen.

As for Mr. Di Ianni's contention that people will get "confused" if he changes his approach now - I find it hard to see how Mr. Di Ianni's donors could be any more "confused" than they were last time around.

I know it takes money to win an election and I don't envy any candidates the enormous task ahead of them. But it's not just about being first past the post.

It takes integrity and leadership to be a good politician and I would expect municipal candidates to seek every opportunity to demonstrate these traits.

Here in Toronto, the message is starting to seep through. I'm sad to see that in this, Hamilton is lagging behind again.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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By Jonathan (registered) | Posted August 24, 2006 at 13:08:28

Hey Ben,

I think Di Ianni said that he actually will disclose if his fellow candidates do. As for refusing corporate/union donations, it is a bit unfair to demand this change in policy after fundraising has already begun and tens of thousands of dollars have been collected. Why didn't CATCH make this proposal a month or two ago?

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted August 24, 2006 at 14:19:04

Hi Jonathon,

Thanks for the comment. In response:

  1. I had no idea DiIanni agreed to post his contributor info. I don't recall seeing that in the Spec article. Anyway, saying 'I'll post mine if you post yours' is completely lame - is that good enough for you? Holy s* have we voters ever gone soft...!

  2. I personally asked DiIanni, during a CHML phone in, if he would post his campaign donor info prior to the last campaign. This request has circulated through e-mails, newspaper OpEds and conversations for the past 3 years. For DiIanni or anyone else to say 'this is the first time I've been asked to do this' is bullshit. Anyway, why must they be ASKED to do something like this? Why can't they offer to do this for themselves? There's no leadership on this issue!

The biggest question I have out of all this though, is, "Why am I surprised?" !

Cheers

Ben

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By Jon (anonymous) | Posted August 24, 2006 at 16:42:51

Ben,

on your 2nd point, I was actually talking about the request to ban union/corporate donations, not the matter of publishing one's contributors.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted August 28, 2006 at 11:16:46

Hi Jon,

Yes my apologies. I guess it's like an exam question - I should read and re-read before answering the question... :)

True Mr D did not get any formal request (that I know of) to refuse Corporate donations for his campaign, however I am surprised that this appears to you to be a reasonable argument against refusing them now?

  1. Mr D - like everyone else in politics - is well aware of the new Fed regulations banning Corporate donations. He is well aware that the province came within a whisker of enacting similar legislation, and he is very much aware of what Pittfield and Miller are doing in Toronto. He knows full well that there is public will behind this but he has chosen to ignore that.
  2. Again, as with my earlier point - why are we content to accept this lack of imagination and leadership in our politicians? Are they just lap dogs that must be told what to do in every situation? It would be nice for our politicians to lead the way once in a while. Given the push from the top and the public discontent on this issue, changes in campaign financing laws are now inevitable. Why do our politicians have to wait to be told to do the right thing every time?

At some point we should stop beating around the bush on this issue. Everybody knows that Messrs DiIanni and Co get elected on the back of Corporate donations. And everybody knows that these same councilors work to further the interests of their Corporate backers. Whether it's supporting re-zoning apps - where Developers can get an instant four-fold increase on their investment on the back of just one decision - or in other ways (such as approving projects that would require their backers services) Corporate donors receive a lot of help from their friends at City Hall. 'Corporate' itself is not an evil word, indeed it is the Corporations that provide many of the jobs in Hamilton. But that's not to say they always have the interests of all citizens at heart. Corporations operate primarily to make money for shareholders and owners. There is very little incentive for corporations to factor in the broader social and environmental costs of their decisions. Hence an overbearing influence on council - and few could argue that this is evident today - is not healthy for the city.

Sadly an open and honest discussion on this issue rarely materializes as Hamilton's media and business elite tend to over-simplify and polarize the debate - and antagonize neutrals along the way - by labeling people as either 'Business friendly' or 'Environmentalists'.

I run my own business (well sort of - I work as an independent contractor) and I support the profit seeking objectives of my Corporate clients, but I also have a fair amount of common sense and a social and environmental conscience to boot. While I am happy to open up my mind to this - and any other - argument, I have no patience for those who would seek to fix a label to my head (unless it's the right label).

If you seriously doubt the developer influence in council I invite you to attend just one meeting of the Planning and Development Committee and I assure you - your doubts will be erased!

Cheers

Ben

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