D'Amato: It’s two-faced to rely on big donors as much as the Ontario Liberals do

Opinion Apr 01, 2016 by Luisa D’Amato Waterloo Region Record

Even for the Liberal Party of Ontario, this is unbelievably two-faced.

On one hand, Premier Kathleen Wynne talks of leading a government that appears to be very concerned with helping the less fortunate. She has promised free post-secondary tuition for lower-income students and speculates about a guaranteed minimum income for Ontarians.

On the other hand, she and her government cosy up to wealthy donors. Liberal cabinet ministers are expected to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, much of which comes from corporations who are promised the ear of the relevant minister. It reeks of playing favourites, with those same less fortunate firmly shut out.

There's more.

On one hand, Wynne is acting concerned about the need for better rules in Ontario regarding political donations. She promises to phase out corporate and union donations and lower the amount an individual can give.

On the other hand, Liberals can rest assured that this will happen very, very slowly. The gravy train is making one more victory lap, allowing Liberals to continue slurping up the easy money and be set for the next election.

The Ontario Liberal Party's "Heritage Dinner," at Toronto's convention centre, can cost $18,000 for the aptly-named "Victory Table" for 10. An extra $1,000 makes you a member of the "Red Trillium Club" and gets you into a reception a half-hour early.

It may be technically legal to set up shop like this, but how is it different from the criminal act of influence peddling?

Last December, one of the banks involved in the privatization of Hydro One held a $7,500-per-person fundraiser that brought in $165,000 for the Ontario Liberals. It was promoted to bankers as a chance for "a small group of senior executives to spend an informal evening with the Ministers of Energy & Finance."

How is it possible for these ministers not to be influenced by these high-priced conversations, from which most of us are completely blocked because the price of admission is just too high?

It's a hideous conflict of interest, and once ministers are safely out of cabinet they speak up against it. Columnist Martin Regg Cohn in the Toronto Star has quoted former Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and former Attorney General John Gerretsen.

"If a major issue comes up, and you have been funded by lobbyists on behalf of any kind of industry, you're going to be affected by that," Gerretsen said.

He added that he is astonished that Wynne hasn't cleaned this up. After all, the federal government doesn't allow union or corporate donations, and limits individual donations.

Are you astonished? I'm not.

After all, this is the party that cancelled two gas plants during an election because they were afraid of losing votes in Toronto's suburbs. They moved the plants to Sarnia to save the seats and will bill the public nearly $1 billion for it.

Looking like warm-hearted reformers while continuing to run things for the benefit of themselves and the powerful elite who pay their bills is a balancing act the Liberals are pretty good at.

But Wynne should pay heed to what's going on south of the border, where Hillary Clinton and her close bonds with powerful corporate America are handicapping her run for president. Some of us are beginning to see the parallels.

ldamato@therecord.com

D'Amato: It’s two-faced to rely on big donors as much as the Ontario Liberals do

Opinion Apr 01, 2016 by Luisa D’Amato Waterloo Region Record

Even for the Liberal Party of Ontario, this is unbelievably two-faced.

On one hand, Premier Kathleen Wynne talks of leading a government that appears to be very concerned with helping the less fortunate. She has promised free post-secondary tuition for lower-income students and speculates about a guaranteed minimum income for Ontarians.

On the other hand, she and her government cosy up to wealthy donors. Liberal cabinet ministers are expected to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, much of which comes from corporations who are promised the ear of the relevant minister. It reeks of playing favourites, with those same less fortunate firmly shut out.

There's more.

On one hand, Wynne is acting concerned about the need for better rules in Ontario regarding political donations. She promises to phase out corporate and union donations and lower the amount an individual can give.

On the other hand, Liberals can rest assured that this will happen very, very slowly. The gravy train is making one more victory lap, allowing Liberals to continue slurping up the easy money and be set for the next election.

The Ontario Liberal Party's "Heritage Dinner," at Toronto's convention centre, can cost $18,000 for the aptly-named "Victory Table" for 10. An extra $1,000 makes you a member of the "Red Trillium Club" and gets you into a reception a half-hour early.

It may be technically legal to set up shop like this, but how is it different from the criminal act of influence peddling?

Last December, one of the banks involved in the privatization of Hydro One held a $7,500-per-person fundraiser that brought in $165,000 for the Ontario Liberals. It was promoted to bankers as a chance for "a small group of senior executives to spend an informal evening with the Ministers of Energy & Finance."

How is it possible for these ministers not to be influenced by these high-priced conversations, from which most of us are completely blocked because the price of admission is just too high?

It's a hideous conflict of interest, and once ministers are safely out of cabinet they speak up against it. Columnist Martin Regg Cohn in the Toronto Star has quoted former Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and former Attorney General John Gerretsen.

"If a major issue comes up, and you have been funded by lobbyists on behalf of any kind of industry, you're going to be affected by that," Gerretsen said.

He added that he is astonished that Wynne hasn't cleaned this up. After all, the federal government doesn't allow union or corporate donations, and limits individual donations.

Are you astonished? I'm not.

After all, this is the party that cancelled two gas plants during an election because they were afraid of losing votes in Toronto's suburbs. They moved the plants to Sarnia to save the seats and will bill the public nearly $1 billion for it.

Looking like warm-hearted reformers while continuing to run things for the benefit of themselves and the powerful elite who pay their bills is a balancing act the Liberals are pretty good at.

But Wynne should pay heed to what's going on south of the border, where Hillary Clinton and her close bonds with powerful corporate America are handicapping her run for president. Some of us are beginning to see the parallels.

ldamato@therecord.com

D'Amato: It’s two-faced to rely on big donors as much as the Ontario Liberals do

Opinion Apr 01, 2016 by Luisa D’Amato Waterloo Region Record

Even for the Liberal Party of Ontario, this is unbelievably two-faced.

On one hand, Premier Kathleen Wynne talks of leading a government that appears to be very concerned with helping the less fortunate. She has promised free post-secondary tuition for lower-income students and speculates about a guaranteed minimum income for Ontarians.

On the other hand, she and her government cosy up to wealthy donors. Liberal cabinet ministers are expected to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, much of which comes from corporations who are promised the ear of the relevant minister. It reeks of playing favourites, with those same less fortunate firmly shut out.

There's more.

On one hand, Wynne is acting concerned about the need for better rules in Ontario regarding political donations. She promises to phase out corporate and union donations and lower the amount an individual can give.

On the other hand, Liberals can rest assured that this will happen very, very slowly. The gravy train is making one more victory lap, allowing Liberals to continue slurping up the easy money and be set for the next election.

The Ontario Liberal Party's "Heritage Dinner," at Toronto's convention centre, can cost $18,000 for the aptly-named "Victory Table" for 10. An extra $1,000 makes you a member of the "Red Trillium Club" and gets you into a reception a half-hour early.

It may be technically legal to set up shop like this, but how is it different from the criminal act of influence peddling?

Last December, one of the banks involved in the privatization of Hydro One held a $7,500-per-person fundraiser that brought in $165,000 for the Ontario Liberals. It was promoted to bankers as a chance for "a small group of senior executives to spend an informal evening with the Ministers of Energy & Finance."

How is it possible for these ministers not to be influenced by these high-priced conversations, from which most of us are completely blocked because the price of admission is just too high?

It's a hideous conflict of interest, and once ministers are safely out of cabinet they speak up against it. Columnist Martin Regg Cohn in the Toronto Star has quoted former Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and former Attorney General John Gerretsen.

"If a major issue comes up, and you have been funded by lobbyists on behalf of any kind of industry, you're going to be affected by that," Gerretsen said.

He added that he is astonished that Wynne hasn't cleaned this up. After all, the federal government doesn't allow union or corporate donations, and limits individual donations.

Are you astonished? I'm not.

After all, this is the party that cancelled two gas plants during an election because they were afraid of losing votes in Toronto's suburbs. They moved the plants to Sarnia to save the seats and will bill the public nearly $1 billion for it.

Looking like warm-hearted reformers while continuing to run things for the benefit of themselves and the powerful elite who pay their bills is a balancing act the Liberals are pretty good at.

But Wynne should pay heed to what's going on south of the border, where Hillary Clinton and her close bonds with powerful corporate America are handicapping her run for president. Some of us are beginning to see the parallels.

ldamato@therecord.com