Premier Kathleen Wynne's government will ban all provincial politicians and candidates from attending fundraisers in a campaign-finance crackdown spurred by a Globe and Mail investigation of the Liberals' cash-for-access donations system.
The new rules will allow cabinet ministers to continue raising money from their stakeholders – people seeking government contracts or favourable policy decisions – so long as they do it by phone or e-mail. And politicians' senior staff will be allowed to attend fundraisers.
Government House Leader Yasir Naqvi unveiled details of Ontario's clampdown on cash-for-access on Wednesday. They will be added to a campaign-finance reform bill a legislative committee is reviewing.
The Liberals launched the reforms last spring, after The Globe reported on small-scale fundraisers in which corporate leaders and lobbyists paid up to $10,000 apiece for exclusive access to Ms. Wynne and members of her cabinet, typically over cocktails and dinner.
The proposed amendments come as the federal Liberals are under fire over events at which stakeholders pay $1,500 a head for time with cabinet ministers.
The Ontario rule changes announced on Wednesday specify:
No MPPs, party leaders, prospective nominees, candidates or leadership candidates can attend fundraisers.
Politicians can "solicit contributions" by mail, telephone, e-mail "or other means."
A single ticket for a fundraiser cannot cost more than $1,200.
Any political party or constituency association holding a fundraiser must post details – including the date, location and ticket price – on its website seven days in advance.
Constituency associations will receive taxpayer subsidies, on top of a subsidy to the central party. The subsidy will be $25,000 annually per riding, divided proportionally according to vote share in the previous election.
When asked if allowing politicians to continue fundraising from stakeholders still leaves them open to selling influence, Mr. Naqvi said the problem is not that politicians are being unduly influenced by donations but that attending intimate soirees with donors has created an optics problem.
"You're saying there is actually a conflict and that people are taking money and making decisions based on that money. There is no evidence whatsoever of that," he said. "The issue we're dealing with is: There may be a perception of conflict and we're working very hard … to ensure that perception does not exist."
Mr. Naqvi would not say why he did not ban senior staff from events, but promised to introduce a code of conduct to regulate staffers' fundraising activities.
Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli said the rules will allow politicians to send "surrogates" to fundraisers. "This is a ploy by the Liberals to still have cash-for-access, but instead of the elected officials, [stakeholders] are accessing their teams."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said allowing politicians to continue fundraising from stakeholders would simply "drive everything further underground."
The Liberals' campaign-finance reform bill will ban corporate and union donations and reduce the annual cap on donations from an individual from more than $30,000 to $3,100.