You will forgive us for not bowing to journalistic convention and referring to a "perception" of influence-peddling when talking about Ontario's useless party financing laws. There is no "perception" that something is awry. The fact of the matter is that, thanks to the province's legislated indifference to normal standards of behaviour and morality, Ontario's Liberal government practises the systematic selling of access to wealthy donors from the corporate and labour worlds.
The Toronto Star reported on Tuesday that the Liberal Party assigns high-ranking cabinet ministers annual fundraising quotas of as much as $500,000, and expects them to raise that money by hitting up wealthy stakeholders in the economic sectors affected by the departments they run.
The money is raked in at swish, high-cost dinners that promise intimate access to ministers and to Premier Kathleen Wynne. The Star's revelation comes just weeks after The Globe and Mail reported that energy-industry insiders paid $6,000 each for one-on-one access to Ms. Wynne and to Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli at a dinner in Toronto on March 10.
The Ontario Liberal Party has turned ministers into salespeople, giving them hard quotas and telling them to sell the one product every lobbyist wants – uncontrolled access to the levers of government. It is a practice so unbecoming that a former Liberal finance minister, Dwight Duncan, says he quit politics in 2013 partly because he was "sick" of being asked to hustle for the party.
The Liberals aren't alone in this. The provincial Progressive Conservatives and NDP also take advantage of laws so lax that they might as well not exist, for all the good they do. The same applies to the laws in British Columbia where, as The Globe revealed on Tuesday, the Liberals hold secretive events that trade intimate access to Premier Christy Clark for as much as $10,000 a person.
Both provinces need to join the 21st century and legislate an end to their respective cash-for-access anarchy. The federal government did it a decade ago, banning donations from corporations and unions and limiting the size of personal donations.
A rapidly backpedalling Ms. Wynne promised on Tuesday that her government will "bring forward a plan" in the fall that will include "transitioning away from corporate and union donations."
Why a premier in a majority government needs to take so long is a mystery. You can be sure, though, that right up until the moment any changes are enacted, her ministers will continue to pound the pavement like the door-to-door salespeople they have become.