Municipal Election 2010

Candidates Split on Accepting Corporate, Union Donations

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.

Since then, the City of Toronto has banned corporate and union donations, and Hamilton's City Council has given the matter some consideration.

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:

For your campaign, will you be accepting donations from corporations or unions? If so, why? If not, why not?

Of the 83 candidates who have not withdrawn their candidacy, 65 - or 78.3% - responded. 26, or 40% of the respondents, said "Yes", 38, or 58.5% of the respondents, said "No", and one declined to provide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.

Mayoral Candidates

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 More Likely to Accept Corporate Donations

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.

Incumbents Not Accepting

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.

Incumbents Accepting

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."

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By hmag (anonymous) | Posted October 19, 2010 at 10:38:33

man - mitchell is truly a piece of work.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 19, 2010 at 11:00:53

Won't somebody think of the poor corporations??

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By EugeneM (registered) | Posted October 19, 2010 at 11:27:08

Makes interesting reading. Shows you who Bernie represents and it's not the residents within Ward 3!

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By cd (anonymous) | Posted October 19, 2010 at 11:47:51

Isn't this what got DiIanni into trouble last time?

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By rudnach (anonymous) | Posted October 19, 2010 at 11:57:37

It was more accepting too much from each source.

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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted October 19, 2010 at 13:58:34

"It was more accepting too much from each source"

Close. Wasn't it accepting one donation from a single source in excess of the $750.00 limit and then issuing two receipts to make one illegal donation look like two legal ones. That act, of course, made it clear that DiIanni and his campaign knew they were breaking the law and tried to cover it up. So much for an act of inadvertance.

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By sweetdeal (anonymous) | Posted October 19, 2010 at 22:21:14

Who needs union donations when you've got endsorsements from people like Brian McHattie & Mark Chamberlain?!

Way to go, Martinus! Keep up the momentum!!

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By ChrisAllen (registered) | Posted October 20, 2010 at 01:31:29

My respect for McHattie and Powers has significantly increased. As for the others...disappointment. Special comment for Morelli: Good job providing a straight answer to a straight question! (That was sarcasm in case you missed it) And people wonder why politicians are so often seen as scoundrels.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 18:51:02

I love Dave Mitchell. I've met him and talked with him many times and he has the views I can most closely identify with.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 19:46:56

Well I did live east of Stoney Creek in Fruitland for years and inherited Dave as my councilor after amalgamation. I spoke with him numerous times and frankly I can't say the same for Bernie Morelli my present councilor. In fact the only candidate I've seen is Sean Gibson. I've seen a canvasser for Mark Dimillo who I feel confident most here will agree isn't the guy we want. The others are pretty much zilch. I'd love to have Mitchell in this ward. He actually cares about the people in his ward. I seem to be stuck voting for a guy that lives nearby that hasn't taken the time to even put a pamphlet in my mailbox. Yikes.

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