The Kathleen Wynne government’s brand took another serious hit in the last few days over its aggressive and ethically questionable fundraising methods; namely charging sometimes thousands of dollars for a few minutes of facetime with herself and her cabinet at intimate cocktail receptions. Opposition leader Patrick Brown pointed out the obvious– that from an optics standpoint it is hard to justify accepting large donations from the same people who stand to benefit from policy and investment decisions made by the ministers. The practice of paying for access to politicians is hardly new—it goes back to the Harris era and beyond, and all parties are guilty of the practice to some extent. What seemed to reinvigorate what is essentially an old story, was the revelation that ministers are actually assigned fundraising quotas—huge quotas for some, of up to half a million dollars. A minister who is trying to focus on meeting a fundraising target of $10,000 per week is not likely to be giving the job at hand—running a major government department—his or her full attention. In fact it feeds the notion that these days Ministers don’t really run anything; that when they are not begging for money they are reciting talking points written by staff in the Premier’s office at carefully stage-managed photo ops. Initially the Premier said the rules for fundraising would be given a thorough review this fall, but within days, spooked by relentless attack, mainly from the media, she has moved the review forward to this spring, and most recently has cancelled all of the private fundraisers that were in the works. The Toronto Star broke the story, which seemed to suggest that part of the reason the story came to light was that the lobbying community, who act as bagmen in these fundraising appeals; have become fed up with the repeated and increasingly aggressive pressure coming from political staff. You know things have reached a new low when the lobbyist community starts gagging.
Written by: Carl La Fong