Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is suggesting her government will phase out corporate and union donations over time, noting that the federal ban did not happen overnight.
Under fire over her party's fundraising practices, Ms. Wynne told reporters in Ottawa on Friday that new legislation coming in the fall will be modelled after the rules governing federal political parties.
The Premier also suggested additional changes will be announced "very soon" that will affect fundraising rules for municipalities in Ontario.
"It's further evidence that this is something that we've been looking at for some time. This is not a new issue for us. We didn't just discover this issue three weeks ago," she said. "At the federal level, there have been a number of years and a series of changes that have taken place to get them to the point where they are. So we will bring in a timeline. We'll bring in that plan in the fall, and you'll be able to see the kind of transition that we'll go through."
The Ontario Liberals are on the defensive over public objections from past provincial ministers – including former finance minister Dwight Duncan – to what they describe as private fundraising targets set for cabinet members by the Ontario Liberal Party. The party was also criticized over its Heritage Dinner, at which the price of a regular table was $16,000, but spending $18,000 granted access to a reception with the Premier. Also, The Globe and Mail has reported on about small, private fundraisers, where donors pay high prices for access to politicians.
Recent corruption charges in Quebec, including the arrest of former deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau, have revived discussion there about a previous system that set $100,000 fundraising targets for cabinet ministers. Witnesses at a public inquiry into corruption allegations had said the targets led politicians to request donations from companies that received government contracts.
Ms. Wynne acknowledged the fundraising targets on Friday, but declined to give details. She referred questions to the Ontario Liberal Party, even though she is its leader.
"We don't necessarily have a joint conversation about what everyone's target is," she said. "We all do our bit."
The Ontario NDP is calling for a meeting of party leaders and the province's chief electoral officer to discuss "serious changes" to the existing rules. Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown, a former Conservative MP, wrote to Ms. Wynne on Friday agreeing with that idea and saying a special committee should also be struck on Monday to consult the public.
"Members of the Ontario PC caucus and I are hearing daily from Ontarians who are very concerned about the apparent influence of political fundraising on the business of government," he wrote, adding that the federal approach to donations is fair and balanced.
Allegations of corruption involving federal Liberals and Quebec companies that became known as the sponsorship scandal led to major reforms at the federal level over a 12-year period.
Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien in 2003 capped individual contributions at $5,000 and limited corporate and union donations to no more than $1,000. The Liberals introduced a per-vote public subsidy to offset the impact on party revenues. In 2006, Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper reduced the individual cap to $1,000 plus inflation adjustments and banned corporate and union donations.
Further reform triggered a political crisis in 2008, when a re-elected Conservative minority attempted to eliminate the per-vote subsidy. The Liberals and NDP threatened to take down the Conservatives and form a coalition government, but dropped the plan after Mr. Harper withdrew the fundraising change.
The Conservatives brought back the plan in 2011 after winning a majority government.
The subsidy was gradually phased out, and was eliminated entirely as of 2015.
Ms. Wynne rejected any suggestion on Friday that corporations can buy access and influence in her government, pointing to policies like a higher minimum wage and pension reform that go against the advice of corporate lobbyists. She said Liberals have accepted donations from big breweries, but have helped craft brewers.
"We did exactly the opposite of what the breweries were looking for, so you have to look at our track record and look at the work that we are doing in the community," she said.