Saskatchewan poster boy for lax standards: no restrictions on donation totals and out-of-province corporate donations welcome
The role of money in Canadian politics is facing increased scrutiny and positive changes are being made – except in Saskatchewan. It’s a problem that needs to addressed, for the health of democracy.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has been criticized for attending private gatherings with high-level donors and receiving a top-up to her salary from the B.C. Liberal Party.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has been under similar scrutiny for “pay-to-play” events and fundraising quotas for ministers. So Ontario plans to ban MPPs from fundraising, and will ban corporate and union donations.
Political parties must raise money to maintain organizations, promote messages and compete in elections. But it matters where that money comes from and how it’s raised. If those with vast money have greater access to government, the system loses legitimacy.
That’s why gatherings such as federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s $1,500-a-head fundraiser at the home of a prominent Halifax land developer are of such concern.
The perception that wealthy donors have overt access to leaders has led six provinces to ban or limit corporate and union donations to political parties. Loopholes remain but the trend is clear: constrict the role of money in politics by restricting donations to individuals and ensuring that donations are only made by those who live in the relevant jurisdiction.
By Charles Smith
University of Saskatchewan
and Ryan Meili
Charles Smith is an associate professor of Political Studies at St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan, and author of two books: Transforming Provincial Politics and Organized Labour and Unions in Court: Organized Labour and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (2017). Ryan Meili is a family physician in Saskatoon and author of A Healthy Society: how a focus on health can revive Canadian democracy.