Elections Ontario still not noticing contributions from partnerships

I’ve been going through old boxes as I pack to move and I came across a letter I wrote to Elections Ontario back in 2007.  In September of 2007, out of curiosity, I was browsing the Elections Ontario website and learned that all contributions to provincial campaigns are published, in a very timely manner, on their website.  While looking at their page (which hasn’t changed much since then) on who is allowed to contribute, I noticed an inconsistency.  The page explicitly describes what is in the Election Finances Act: “Unincorporated groups, such as partnerships, cannot contribute as a group. They must list the name and contribution of each individual within the group separately. However, officially endorsed affiliated political organizations, such as women’s or youth groups, may contribute in the name of the group.”  This very directly paraphrases subsection 16(1) of the Act.  A (very) quick glance at the list of contributions that year proved that not only had contributions been made by partnerships – but that no one at Elections Ontario had even noticed.

Now I’m not one to encourage contributions by corporations, trade unions, or any other non-human contributors.  I’m not going to make an argument that partnerships are the only organizations that should be excluded – and I’m not trying to pick on partnerships (which for the most part are legal and accounting firms – most of whom I have a lot of respect for) – but like it or not, the Act was written by the provincial legislature and its incredibly minimal standards should be enforced.  So on September 15, 2007, I wrote a letter to Elections Ontario.
Neal – Letter to Elections Ontario
I got a surprisingly prompt response on September 26, 2007.

Response Letter From Elections On

I figured at the time that the issue had been taken care of as well as it could be.  A quick search today has uncovered that all of these contributions are still on the list – which leads me to the obvious question: why?  Not to mention – searching more recent contributions came up with a lot of contributions to partnerships.

[Try it yourself – Go to http://rtd.elections.on.ca/rtd/jsp/en/RTDParty.jsp# and choose a party and report (any year or campaign will do – though the biggest recipients from partnerships appear to be the Liberal party).  Click Download (tab-delimited file) in the top right corner of the results page, and then open it (it should open as a txt file).  Search for “Partner,” “LP” (Limited Partnership), or “LLP” (Limited Liability Partnership).]

So, being the rabble-rouser I like to be, I’ve written the following email to the Election Finances Office, but of course I’m publishing it here because I suspect without doing so, action will still not be taken.

Dear Madam or Sir,

I am writing today as a follow-up to a letter written and responded to in September of 2007.  In this letter (which is attached in .pdf form), I requested further information on, and called your attention to, a number of election contributions made by partnerships that were disclosed on your website for that year (these are listed in the attached .pdf file).  Your response, dated September 26, 2007 (also attached), suggested that you would conduct a review of the donations I had listed and that you would decide on subsequent actions.  I had assumed at that point that the matter was resolved.

Out of interest, I searched today (September 12, 2010) on the list of contributions and have discovered that all of the contributions I listed are still included – and in some cases that the contributors had since contributed again.  Does this suggest that no further action was taken, and that these contributions were deemed acceptable?  Or is the website not updated to reflect reimbursed contributions?  I would like, if possible, to know what subsequent actions were taken as a result of my previous letter.

Further, in re-performing the type of search I performed back in 2007 on more recent contributions, I have again easily identified tens of thousands of dollars of contributions made by contributors clearly identified as “partnership” “LP” (Limited Partnership) or “LLP” (Limited Liability Partnership).  This suggests to me that there is still absolutely no mechanism in place at Elections Ontario to identify even the most blatant violations of the Election Finances Act.  Why is it that something that takes me, a member of the public accessing public information on your website, less than five minutes to identify is not prevented or resolved by Elections Ontario, the public oversight body responsible for enforcing the Act?  Is there any way in which I can file a formal complaint about these violations and/or the inability of Elections Ontario to catch them?

I look forward to your response, and will be blogging both the information in this letter and the response.  I truly believe that election financing rules are only useful if they’re actually enforced – and I’m incredibly disappointed that it appears they are not.

Yours sincerely,

Neal Jennings

I look forward to sharing the results.  I would enumerate the clearly-identifiable partnerships but as I stated above this isn’t a vendetta against partnerships – they’re no worse than corporations (especially since a large amount of numbered companies contribute – effectively making contributions anonymous in a perfectly legal manner).  If you’re interested in finding them I’ve suggested how to do so above – if Elections Ontario does anything well, it’s publishing contributions in complete form.  I sincerely hope they’re able to resolve this problem and give me a satisfactory response.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Great letters Neal! If you don’t get anywhere with Elections Canada, you might try passing on your research to your MPP. I guess that’s probably about as good a formal complaint process as there is.


  2. Thanks Greg. Unfortunately my MPP is Glen Murray (who is otherwise a pretty good guy) – do a search on the Toronto Centre by-election for 2010 and you’ll see why I’d be hesitant to bring it up to him.


  3. Posted by Irene Gabon on 2011/09/03 at 1:18 am

    Do you have a link to contirbutions to variouis candidates in 2007 provincial election. Site is difficult to navigate. Thanks.


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