I thank the Committee for inviting me to speak today.
The last time I appeared was during consultations on electoral reform and the voting system. I hope that your work will reach a more satisfactory conclusion this time.
First of all, I would say that making a contribution to a party remains a fundamental democratic exercise, a fundamental democratic right even. In a political system, giving money to a party is as much a type of political expression as it is activism. This is the first thing that we should keep in mind. It is also a way to support a cause, a political stream and, generally speaking, democracy.
Contributing to a political party is also a means for political parties and elected officials to stay in touch with civil society. It is also a way to energize a party’s militant grassroots or to aim to do so.
As such, it is important to think about it and to question amendments to the political financing provisions of the Canada Election Act. I would add that it is critical to examine the oversight role that the State must play when it comes to political financing. My remarks and my analysis of Bill address those issues.
The rules of political financing are at the core of a democratic regime. We must be aware of the fact that Bill can impact the balance of political forces and the arrival of new players in a partisan system. That is the case when the rules of political financing are directly or indirectly concerned.
The State has a definite responsibility regarding transparency and equity among voters. That is the oversight role that it must play when it comes to political parties and their financing.
Over the years, Canada has managed to develop a model that differs from the one in the United States and which gives central stage to the voter. It has been a fundamental principle of the Canada Elections Act for a few years.
After further analysis of Bill , we find that it does not question the principles of transparency and voter primacy, but upholds them. It will, actually, increase transparency, but it will not solve the structural problems raised in the political debate, including those related to equity and trust, despite its objectives.
Generally speaking, what are the goals of Bill ? First of all, it aims at fighting a certain type of cynicism in response, of course, to critics raised regarding access to elected officials based on political contributions. It seeks to avoid situations in which contributing to a political party is perceived as a way for the richest members of society to get a privileged access to politicians.
In what way does Bill meet these objectives? First of all, we must recall that, like most bills on election regulations, this one stems from a media frenzy. The party-managed registry of financing activities that will be created as a result of this bill will most likely end up being managed by the Chief Electoral Officer.
One of the important consequences of this bill is that, once it’s passed, it will lead to a registry of lobbyists logic. It is a structural effect that must be debated and given some thought. In other words, the bill will create a dynamic similar to that of a registry of lobbyists.
In a democratic financing system, the origin of donations must, of course, be made public. Bill goes further when it asks that financing activities be published in a registry, five days in advance, followed by the names of participants. It is a political or transparency dynamic more similar to the prior disclosure of influence activities than to activist activities.
Similarly, the bill could have adverse effects on political dynamics. Initially, such a process will be much more difficult to handle for smaller parties than for the strongly institutionalized ones that enjoy a well-established partisan bureaucracy to manage accountability. That is the first thing.
Moreover, the bill will increase political parties’ risks of breaches, penalties, and blame given the multiplicity of their financing activities. It could also deter certain activists from contributing to political parties; at least, that is what I fear. It confirms the perception that it is suspicious to make a contribution to a political party while, in reality, as I was saying from the outset, contributing to a political party is an exercise in democracy and activism. Even though, in its current form, the bill includes exemptions during an election period, the political dynamics could lead to these exemptions being called into question.
Let’s come back to the bill’s objectives. In order to reduce cynicism and to show that the perception that donors get access to elected officials in exchange for contributions is false, I believe that we must think more about lowering contribution thresholds. We must lower the annual contribution thresholds to a political party. We must also think about reintroducing a type of State allowance.
As for the other aspect concerning the oversight of nomination contests and leadership races, the bill responds to the Chief Electoral Officer’s recommendations to account for all expenditures. No one is better positioned than him to establish the appropriate legal terminology to achieve these objectives.
As far as I’m concerned, the questions arising from the analysis of the bill centre around two elements. Why not extend its provisions to include the election of all national party officers? We know that there are campaigns to elect committee chairs and different national executive positions within a party, which are, ultimately, prestigious positions.
Why not also review anonymous donations? We know that Canadian legislation is much more tolerant than that of other jurisdictions, for instance Quebec.
In conclusion, your committee’s work is essential to democracy. The study of political party financing goes beyond a bill to encompass the balance of political forces both in a Parliament and in civil society. By changing the rules of financing, we intervene in what constitutes the sinews of war in politics: funding.
It is important to assess both the positive and potentially negative impacts of amendments. I’m afraid that Bill will change the perception of what constitutes a political donation — which, in my opinion, must be associated with political activism rather than a gesture of influence — by adapting or integrating a dynamic specific to the registry of lobbyists.
Thank you for listening to me.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for inviting me to take part in your study of Bill .
My presentation will be in two parts. First, I will make some general observations about the purpose of the bill, intended to situate it in the context of the ongoing development of the regulation of political finance under the Elections Act, and then I will have a few comments about certain provisions of the bill.
Canada's regulatory framework for election and political finance is considered, with justification, to be one of the most progressive in the world. It is based on a number of principles, one of which is transparency. As with other parts of the Canada Elections Act, the means to further that principle have evolved over time. Often this has occurred in response to scandal or to concerns about the potential for financially well-endowed interests to exercise undue influence over the federal, political, and legislative processes. We can think, for example, about the Pacific scandal of 1872 as well as the Rivard affair and related controversies about irregular party funding during the Pearson government in the mid-1960s.
In response to the first, the Pacific scandal, Parliament introduced a requirement in the 1874 Dominion Elections Act that candidates report on their election spending. However, there were no sanctions or an effective enforcement body, and the provision became a dead letter.
In response to the controversies of the 1960s and the pressures on political parties for financing election campaigns, the Pearson government appointed the committee on election expenses in 1964. It's often referred to as the Barbeau committee. Significant parts of that report were enacted in the groundbreaking Election Expenses Act of 1974.
Over time, two developments have occurred to strengthen transparency in federal political finance. First, the reporting requirements have been extended beyond parties and candidates that were covered by this 1974 statute to other entities—constituency associations, leadership contestants, nomination contestants, and third parties. I might add that this extension follows from some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Electoral Report and Party Financing. I was the senior research coordinator for that commission, so I am slightly biased. But sometimes it takes quite a while for the work of royal commissions to actually be implemented, and this is an example where the extended reporting that the Lortie Report recommended actually came into place some ten years later.
The second development is that some of the requirements that were instituted in the seventies have become more demanding. For example, since 2004, political parties must report on their contributions at the end of every three-month period rather than annually.
Bill fits within the pattern of developments I just sketched. First, if passed, it will extend reporting requirements, with some exceptions, to those attending most fundraising events sponsored by parties represented in the House of Commons as well as events sponsored by their leadership and nomination contestants, providing they meet certain criteria.
The bill also responds to concerns about the potential influence of people who attend fundraising events in addition to those who make political contributions. For those who do contribute, the identity is reported under the already existing requirements.
Particular concern has been expressed about the attendance of non-Canadian business leaders at certain fundraisers. I don't need to go into any more detail about that; you're aware of what I'm talking about. In light of the ban on foreign contributions to federal political entities, which I am sure most Canadians support, I share that concern. I share a concern about the attendance of foreign business leaders, and indeed, foreign interests from different sectors that happen to be business leaders who have been mentioned in some of the commentary about fundraising.
I would underline, to sum up, that political finance reporting requirements are intended not only to allow the public, the media, and others to have reasonably timely access to relevant information but also to serve a broader purpose. My colleague has referred to that as well.
The Lortie report included the following observation: “Full disclosure of information on financial contributions and expenditures is an integral component of an electoral system that inspires public confidence.” The Minister of Democratic Institutions also drew this link when she spoke on a second reading last June 8. She stated, “Canadians have a right to know even more than they do now about political fundraising events...so that [they] can continue to have confidence in our democracy.”
I should add that what the bill will intend to do, and what the Canada Elections Act does already, needs to be situated in a broader context. We can't put all the freight on the shoulders of the Canada Elections Act. We have lobbyist registration; we have ethical codes of conduct; and we have officers of Parliament who are charged with implementing the statutes and the regulations under them, and you're hearing from two of them later today, including my former colleague Mary Dawson.
Turning to the provisions of Bill , I have three brief comments. First of all, there have been questions about whether the reporting requirements should also apply to political parties in addition to the party in government. In response I would say that first of all, it's entirely possible that an opposition party becomes a governing party. That's a fundamental part of our system, and it happens all the time. In the meantime, its leaders and MPs participate in the legislative process. It is therefore legitimate to apply similar rules to the fundraising activities of opposition parties. Moreover, the political finance regulatory scheme, as set down in the 1970s and modified since, is not based on a distinction between the governing and other political parties. Rather, it requires political parties, whether they're represented in the House or not, to apply to register providing they meet certain criteria. Once they do so, the same rules, whether they're on reporting, spending, or contributions, apply to all the registered parties. There isn't a distinction between whether you're in government or sitting on the opposition side, or indeed whether you're inside or outside the House, providing you're registered.
Secondly, Bill provides that a party or other entity must publish information about a fundraiser on its website at least five days before the event takes place. This is too short. Such events are planned weeks, if not months, before they are held, and in my view the five-day period should be lengthened. If the announcement needs to be modified, for example if a minister has been invited to come and he or she cannot come at the last minute, the notice on the website can be modified. Indeed, the bill already specifically covers updates.
Finally, along with Jean-Pierre Kingsley, with whom I worked a little over 10 years ago, I find the sanction of a $1,000 fine for non-compliance too weak. The level of the sanction should send a message that the new requirements must be treated seriously.
The second part of the bill covers leadership and nomination contest expenses. As I understand it, these amendments flow from an interpretation note the Chief Electoral Officer issued in August 2015 and from his report after the election of that year. Beyond saying that it is important to align the text of the Canada Elections Act with Parliament's intent, I don't have any specific comments on that part of the bill.
I will be happy to answer your questions and comments.
I'd like to thank you both for your attendance today. We appreciate it.
I'd like to follow up on the five days, because it has been the focus, as Mr. Nater said, of a fair bit of discussion here. One of the things that Mr. Kingsley just kind of threw out there and I grabbed immediately, as I thought it solved one of our problems, was this issue of the notice of who's going to be there in five days. I think it was Mr. Nater who raised the possible concern that wink-wink, nudge-nudge, certain people could know who's going to be there suddenly at the last minute, and therefore the intent of the bill would be thwarted.
Mr. Kingsley threw out the suggestion, which I'd like your response to, that if you're not named on that notice effective at least five days before the event—by the way, that's also too soon, but let's just use that for now—then you can't show up. I liked it because it would immediately prevent any kind of wink-wink, nudge-nudge, and would thwart that go-around in terms of having somebody show up, supposedly as a surprise but not really as a surprise to everyone.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on just going a step further and saying that if you're one of the listed people and you're not on that list five days before, you can't go to that event.
Mr. Chair and committee members, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today as part of the committee's study on Bill . With me today is Martine Richard, general counsel.
Bill amends the Canada Elections Act to create an advertising and reporting regime for political fundraising events attended by ministers, party leaders, or leadership contestants where the cost to participate is more than $200. The aim is to increase transparency about who is attending such events. I support the direction of this proposed legislation. As I've said on previous occasions, transparency is important for any kind of regime that touches on conflict of interest.
Bill does not amend or directly affect the regimes that I administer: the Conflict of Interest Act and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. It does, however, apply to some individuals who are subject to those regimes.
Ministers, including the , are reporting public office holders under the Conflict of Interest Act. Leadership contestants and party leaders who are sitting MPs would also be subject to one or both of these conflict-of-interest regimes. I welcome the move to make all party leaders and leadership contestants—and not just ministers—subject to the new advertising and reporting regime. I note, however, that Bill does not cover parliamentary secretaries, who are subject to the Conflict of Interest Act, as reporting public office holders. The committee may wish to consider that omission.
It appears that the impetus for Bill was the high level of media attention and public concern about several so-called cash-for-access or pay-to-play fundraisers that have taken place in the last two years. These are events in which a relatively small number of attendees, in return for the price of admission, gain the opportunity to meet a featured minister or party leader. The fundraisers prompted a great many calls to my office and several requests for investigations. The level of public interest in fundraisers involving federal politicians is particularly high at present; however, concerns about political fundraisers were also raised much earlier during my mandate as commissioner. The issue of political fundraising came up in three of my examination reports under the act: The Raitt Report in May 2010, The Dykstra Report in September 2010, and The Glover Report in November 2014. I also addressed the matter in my submission to the parliamentary committee that conducted the five-year review of the act which concluded in 2014.
The Conflict of Interest Act contains only one provision, section 16, that directly addresses participation in fundraising activities. Section 16 of the act reads: “No public office holder shall personally solicit funds from any person or organization if it would place the public office holder in a conflict of interest.” There's no specific mention of political fundraising in the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons.
This provision does not distinguish between political and charitable fundraising. Two elements must exist to establish a contravention of section 16: first, a public office holder must have personally solicited funds from a person or organization or have asked somebody else to do so; and second, it must be established that the personal solicitation would place the public office holder in a conflict of interest.
I should mention as well that one other paragraph of the act relates to political fundraising, and that's paragraph 11(2)(a), which establishes an exception to the gift rule to allow for gifts that are permitted under the Canada Elections Act. As you will recall, the gift rule prohibits public office holders and their family members from accepting a gift or other advantage that might reasonably to be seen to have been given to influence the public office holders in the exercise of a public power, duty, or function.
Other sections of the act, while not specifically about fundraising, could be triggered, but this could occur only at a later date, when a person who made a donation to attend a fundraiser seeks a particular outcome from a minister or a member of ministerial staff.
This would not arise when the fundraiser takes place or when the stakeholder makes the required donation. For example, section 6 prohibits public office holders from making an official decision or participating in making a decision if they know or should reasonably know that, in doing so, they would be in a conflict of interest.
Under section 7, the issue is not who a public office holder may speak with at a fundraising event, but whether that person is given preferential treatment after the fact. Section 7 is problematic, however, because it's so limited in scope. It does not prohibit all preferential treatment, only preferential treatment based on the identity of the person who makes the intervention. I have always wondered why it couldn't just be preferential treatment.
Sections 8 and 9 prohibit public office holders from using insider information to improperly further or seek to improperly further a donor's private interests, and from seeking to influence a decision in order to do that.
On several occasions I have recommended strengthening the fundraising provision of the act, for example, by putting in place a more stringent rule for ministers and parliamentary secretaries. I even went so far as to say in my 2012-2013 annual report that I could support an absolute prohibition on ministers and parliamentary secretaries attending fundraising events, if the government wanted to go that far.
In The Glover Report, I recommended amending the act to include a contravention for ministers or parliamentary secretaries who knew or should have known that funds were being solicited by their staff in circumstances that would place them in a conflict of interest and who failed to take appropriate action. I've also referred on several occasions to the 's accountability document, which has since been updated and renamed Open and Accountable Government. Some of its provisions could be added to the act.
I have suggested as well that the House of Commons consider implementing a separate code of conduct to address the political conduct of members and their staff, including political fundraising.
As amendments to the regimes that I administer are not the issue currently before the committee, I mention these recommendations only as a context and to establish my long-standing general position that fundraising rules should be tightened.
The amendments to the Canada Elections Act proposed by Bill promote transparency with respect to fundraising activities.
I think it is a positive measure that would benefit our electoral process. It will also help to apply the Conflict of Interest Act more effectively. The easier access to the names and addresses of participants in these fundraising activities could be useful to the office if it has to investigate an allegation that a participant in such an activity obtained an advantage from a minister.
That ends my opening remarks. I will be pleased to answer your questions.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I am pleased to be here today to participate in your study of Bill , An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing).
I am accompanied by Bruce Bergen, senior counsel.
As Commissioner of Lobbying, my role is to administer the Lobbying Act, which makes lobbying activities transparent, and to develop and enforce the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct, which sets out standards of behaviour for lobbyists. Together, the act and the code ensure that Canadians have confidence in the integrity of decisions taken by their government.
Lobbying is a legitimate activity.
Having been involved in the making of public policy for many years, I know that exposure to a range of viewpoints is essential to effective policy-making and better decision-making by governments. However, it is important that when lobbyists communicate with public office holders, they do so transparently and with high ethical standards.
My mandate, as outlined in the act, is threefold: maintain the Registry of Lobbyists, which contains and makes public the information disclosed by lobbyists; develop and implement educational programs to foster public awareness of the requirements of the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct; and ensure compliance with the act and the code.
The Lobbyists' Code of Conduct complements the Lobbying Act in enhancing public confidence in government decision-making.
Following a two-year consultation process, a new Lobbyists' Code of Conduct came into force in December 2015. The new code addresses the issue of conflict of interest in more detail to reflect a 2009 Federal Court of Appeal decision that included the concept of apparent conflicts of interest. These new and simplified rules help lobbyists avoid placing public office holders in a real or apparent conflict of interest, specifically when they share close relationships with public office holders whom they have engaged in political activities, and when it comes to the provision of gifts to public office holders.
Given the committee's current study, I would like to discuss rule 9 of the code that deals with political activities.
Some political activities could create a sense of obligation. While we live in a democratic country where both political activities and lobbying are legitimate, lobbyists must ensure that no real or apparent conflict of interest is created when these two activities intersect.
The code explicitly prohibits lobbyists from lobbying members of Parliament and ministers when they have carried out political activities that could reasonably be seen to create a sense of obligation. These activities include organizing a fundraising campaign or event, writing speeches, preparing candidates for debates, and serving on the executive of an electoral district association. The rule extends to a prohibition on lobbying public office holders who work in a minister's or MP's office. By contrast, political activities such as making contributions under the Canada Elections Act, putting a sign on a lawn, being a member of an electoral district association, or attending fundraising events do not create the sense of obligation that would result in the appearance of a conflict of interest.
When the code was published, I released guidance to help lobbyists understand how I intend to apply the rules relating to conflict of interest. My guidance encourages lobbyists to ask themselves the following question when considering political activities: would a reasonable person look at my political activities and consider that they created a sense of obligation on the part of any individual seeking or holding a public office? If the answer is “yes”', then any related lobbying activities risk creating a conflict of interest for that individual and should not be undertaken.
In summary, while I do not regulate political activities, I believe that legislation such as the Lobbying Act, the Canada Elections Act, the Conflict of Interest Act, and the codes which exist for lobbyists and members of Parliament contribute to the confidence Canadians can have in the integrity of the government's decisions.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my remarks. I am now pleased to answer any questions you or the committee members may have.
Thank you, both, for your attendance today. I appreciate it.
In addition to having a debate about the minutiae of the bill, one of the things that have cropped up during these hearings is whether or not we're just tinkering around the edges and making any real change versus making a realistic, dramatic change. We've had people come in and make the case that we're not even dealing with the real issue. One of the real issues we ought to be looking at is the contribution threshold itself. That's come up a number of times.
As someone who is a fan of what former Prime Minister Chrétien did in terms of bringing in the public election financing—which I thought, next to keeping us out of Iraq, was his best move as a prime minister—I was heartbroken in the last Parliament when we saw it completely removed. I leave that for you to comment on as I'm asking you to paint a picture of the larger issue. But on the contribution of $1,550, is that part of our problem or not, in your opinion? There have been those who have come in and said that what we should be doing federally is more like what they're doing in Quebec. It's down around $100, and it makes it easier for everybody to pay, and then a lot of these other issues go away. That's the argument. There are others who say, “No, up to $1,550 for a middle-class person is a reasonable amount”, and then we have to bring in all these checks and balances.
What are your thoughts on those two approaches to this? It keeps coming up as we're going through this.
You gave some testimony in which you said you had thought about the idea of it applying to all PSs, ministers, and maybe all parliamentarians—not doing these types of events. I heard that, but then you kind of said, “Well, I'm not sure about that thought; it's just something that's crossed my mind.”
I think back to the testimony we had just prior to yours. Because of how we function in our democracy—the way it is set up, practically speaking—parties do need to raise funds. It's not just parties; it's us as individual members. Parliamentary secretaries and ministers, when I think about it, are responsible for their own ridings, not just for their political cabinet portfolios. They're responsible for their own ridings, and they have to raise funds for their riding associations in order to even become an MP. You can't be in cabinet if you're not an MP, right?
Going to that fundamental level, I feel that at some point we're trying to solve some problems. As the previous witness said before that, there may be some perverse consequences that we may end up facing if we take this too far. How are they supposed to do their civic duty, to take leadership and run in a campaign, if they're a cabinet minister, but they can't raise funds in their own riding for their own riding association?
I would like to begin by thanking the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for inviting me to provide my observations on Bill , an act to amend the Canada Elections Act with respect to political financing. I welcome the chance to offer my insights and advice on the electoral process to you. When I provide comments to a committee of the House of Commons, I am very aware that I am addressing Canada's lawmakers.
Today, I would like to briefly address these topics: one, creating a fair and level playing field; two, Ontario's election finance system; and three, the provisions of this bill.
The first observation I'd like to make is on the importance of maintaining a fair and level playing field. All political actors require financial resources, and money is an essential element in politics. Chief electoral officers of Canada, from the past and present, speak of the special role parties play in the democratic process. They also speak of the need to strike the right balance in creating a funding formula that sustains parties but does not unfairly enrich them or, conversely, leave them beholden to any one contribution source.
The concept of the level playing field is central to our democracy. It is also a unifying principle of election administration; it ties together the voting process and the campaign process. This is how it ties them together. Election outcomes are supposed to reflect the genuine will of the people. Political finance rules are supposed to ensure that parties have equal opportunity to raise and spend funds to advance their message and win votes. Electoral outcomes should not be distorted because of unequal opportunities to influence the electorate.
Academics and judges have written about this at length. As an election administrator, I see that it boils down to one fundamental proposition: All who enter the electoral arena should be treated equally. The debate, then, becomes what rules are rational, necessary, and practical to have in place. In other words, we need to strike the right balance between transparency and participation in the electoral process.
I would now like to provide some insight into Ontario's election finance regime.
Last year, while Ontario was undergoing significant electoral reform, I was asked and agreed to serve as an adviser to the Standing Committee on General Government. As the Chief Electoral Officer, I am an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly. My mandate includes overseeing the registration and financial reporting requirements of all parties and candidates, not just those represented in the Legislative Assembly. You might say that I am the referee, and I referee the rules of the political game in provincial elections. I saw my role as helping ensure there was a level playing field on which all compete.
Ontario took an extensive process in consulting the public. Throughout my time as an adviser, I had the opportunity to travel the province and listen to deputants speak about the relationship between money and politics. I also appeared three times in front of the committee to provide my thoughts on the provisions in the bill.
In following the debate on the bill prior to the consultation process, it was evident that there was a strong desire to reform campaign finances and to put an end to what was termed “cash for access”. Ontario made significant reforms to contribution limits.
The first was a ban on corporate and trade union donations. Only individuals who are residents of Ontario can now make contributions to political parties, constituency associations, candidate campaigns, leadership contestants, and nomination contestants.
The second significant change was the amount an individual could contribute annually to political parties. Prior to the amendments, individuals could contribute up to $9,975 annually, and up to an additional $9,975 for each campaign period. This meant that, in a year when we had two by-elections, contributors were able to contribute up to $29,925 to a party.
Under the bill now, the contribution limit is $1,200 annually to a political party, $1,200 annually to constituency associations and nomination contestants, and $1,200 annually to a leadership contestant, totalling an annual contribution limit of $3,600. No extra amount over the annual limit is allowed, regardless of the number of campaigns.
The next area I would like to address is annual allowances.
Earlier in my remarks, I observed the need to strike the right balance in creating a funding formula that sustains parties but does not unfairly enrich them or leave them beholden to any one contribution source. To that end, Ontario introduced a unique system by providing quarterly allowances to support the activities of political parties and constituency associations. Funding formulas have been developed to determine how much each party or constituency association receives.
While I strongly believe that private and public funding support to political parties is essential, I do not advocate for one model over another, but believe that a funding formula that balances public and private funding is an important component of our democratic system.
Another significant amendment was to fundraising events themselves. Similar to the provisions in Bill , Ontario introduced similar reporting requirements for fundraising events. Parties are also required to inform the public on their website at least seven days in advance that a fundraising event is being held.
Attendance at fundraising events, though, has been significantly reformed in Ontario. Many political actors are now prohibited from attending fundraising events. These range from leaders of registered parties, MPPs, to staff members in the leader's office. As you can see, Ontario has taken a strong approach to amending the election finance system.
What I will put forward for the consideration of this committee, when you are reviewing and amending provisions related to election finance laws, concerns the risk of unintended consequences. Let me give you an example.
While Ontario was amending its fundraising requirements, prohibiting party leaders, MPPs, and nomination contestants from attending fundraising events, they did not make any exceptions for events such as annual general meetings, policy conferences, and similar events. I believe the new fundraising requirements were originally intended to restrict attendance at large fundraising dinners and other such events. However, because of the wording of the act, I believe an unintended consequence of the attendance restrictions applied to party meetings like annual general meetings, for which delegate fees included a contribution portion. I thus wrote to all three party leaders recommending that the Election Finances Act be amended at the earliest opportunity to specifically exempt such events.
I do not believe the attendance provisions were meant to restrict leaders and MPPs from attending events where party policy and party platforms were being debated and decided upon. Generally, I was supportive of most of these changes and found this level of reform appropriate.
I will now turn my attention to the provisions of Bill . In reviewing the provisions of this bill and other bills related to elections, I always ask myself whether the changes protect the integrity of the electoral process, preserves fairness, and promotes transparency.
I have reviewed this bill closely and offer the following observations. The provisions in Bill are not as strict as those of Ontario's current election finance system. Yet, there are many positive aspects of this bill. I do believe this bill achieves greater transparency by making fundraising events public and adding requirements to report to the Chief Electoral Officer.
I would suggest that the committee, in deliberating these provisions, apply the principle of consistency when regulating political actors. The way the legislation is written, many of these fundraising provisions apply only to leaders, interim leaders, or leadership contestants. I believe it would be an oversight to not give consideration to, for example, members of Parliament or high-ranking political staffers, such as chiefs of staff, when it comes to attendance at fundraising events. Many of them have a level of influence that is important to recognize. Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley also raised this when he presented to you on this bill, and I concur with his rationale.
As the committee continues to debate this legislation and additional changes to election finances, I once again remind you to closely examine all provisions of the bill to ensure that unintended consequences do not arise.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the committee for inviting me to speak and offer my perspectives as Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario. I applaud the work this committee is doing on electoral reform and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.