Money talks - does it have the last word? And who should people running for office accept campaign donations from?

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

September 20, 2014



Money talks.

Last week envelopes appeared on the desks of each council member, and we believe on the desk of the Mayor as well. Inside there was a cheque for $750, the maximum that can be donated to an election campaign in a municipal election.

The funds came from a developer; a good developer actually – a company that has done some excellent work in the downtown core.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward returned the donation. Her view is that members of council running for re-election should not accept donations from corporations that have or can be expected to have business before the city.

Does this make sense?

Candidates are required to file financial statements setting out how much money they spent and where it came from.

Peter Rusin, running against Mayor Goldring has said he will fund his on campaign and not accept donations.  When former Chief of Staff to Mayor Goldring was thinking about running for office he said that he would probably pay for his own campaign.  But most people are not in a position to spend $5,000 – maybe $10,000 or as much as $15,000 to get themselves elected.

Running an election campaign is expensive. Is a cheque for $750 really going to sway a member of council?

When everyday people have business before the city – say a Committee of Adjustment application or a proposal to sell services to the city – should they refrain from donating to campaigns?

What if they made their donations via personal cheque?

It will be interesting to see what, if any debate there is on this issue.

What do you think?

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15 comments to Money talks – does it have the last word? And who should people running for office accept campaign donations from?

  • D.Duck

    Ms. M.A. Ward news letter:
    “ADI Development Group has submitted an application for a 28-storey apartment at Martha & Lakeshore, with 226 units, 5 levels of underground parking, 3 levels of above ground parking, and ground floor retail facing Lakeshore.

    The site – currently a parking lot – is zoned for 4 storeys, with provision to go to 8 storeys if “community benefits” under Section 37 are provided to help mitigate the impacts of the extra height.”

    I wonder what will happen and if there will be a recorded vote???

  • I know that running for election is not easy. Nor is it cheap. Nor is it a level playing field. I am doing it anyways. My campaign is being funded from my pocket, not from corporate donations.

    I believe that the process has to be transparent. If developers are donating money to Municipal campaigns then the appearance will be that there is some sort of return expected. True or not, the impression and assumption is there.

    Good luck to all !

  • D.Duck

    Ms. Gillies,

    Perception is everything!!
    – All council votes should be recorded and computer logged. One wonders why some council members oppose this??
    – When some developers change their building specs after being given city approval and when the new specs are contrary to the city’s bylaws and official plan; one wonders why these councillors agree to these changes??
    – Will the city sale of our waterfront land to wealthy private individuals be disclose?? Have these private individuals given money to the re-election of some councillors; are they neighbours; are they friends???

    It isn’t about $750 dollars, it is about perception. If you don’t understand this, then you don’t understand the average citizen of Burlington. Transparency, accountability and responsibility are not just words.

  • Pat

    Question to my fellow BG readers:

    If a member of Burlington City Council accepts a campaign donation from a business, any business, would that member not ethically have to recuse him/herself from any Council/Committee discussion and/or voting pertaining to a matter that relates to said business (donor)?

    Question to the Burlington Gazette:

    Why would you not publish the name of the developer who has made these donations to each current Council member? It does become a matter of public record – and if you have verified this information, why not disclose it to your readership now?

  • Ken Colombo

    That Gillies guy seems to have a handle on whether or not a potential council position could be influenced by a contribution from a developer. Has he served in any elected municipal capacity yet?

    Editor’s note: The Gillies guy is not a guy – but a candidate who ran in 2010

  • Shannon Gillies

    Mr. Duck,

    Perhaps some feel there is that perception, but I think that perception needs to be challenged. Again, I’m asking, does anyone truly believe that for $750 per term (less than $200 per year), councillors make nefarious closed door dealings against their better judgment? I assume you’re referring to the Ghent Avenue development? That project was proposed by Branthaven homes. I’ve checked all the councillors’ financial statements and as far as I can see, not one of them shows a contribution from Branthaven during the 2010 election. Councillor Taylor and five other council members voted for the zoning change, and as he mentioned, he accepts no contributions.

    I very much respect Councillor Taylor’s decision to not accept any outside contributions. Not all candidates, however, are in a financial position to do so. That personal decision makes much more sense, in my opinion, than deciding to reject donations from one particular industry, when so many different industries and individuals have significant dealings with the City and the Region.

  • Roger

    Bought and sold – if the developer gave every person running 750 dollars – fair enough but one thing I have learned – there that some are more equal the others – there are ways around the limits – the monies should be returned immediately – there is nothing such as free money. When councillors tell residents that they can go to the OMB – one thinks that agenda is far to developer friendly – this donation and other like it should be immediately returned withour question

  • Henri de Beaujolais

    With no public record of who comes to delegate at City Hall, unlike some other cities, you never know who is trying to influence the decision-makers at City Hall.

  • D.Duck

    Ms Gillies,
    It is not the $750 but the perception of what maybe happening behind closed doors in regards to these private financial entities within this city.

    When some developers purchase a property, clear cut all the trees and then apply for zoning changes and this city council does not put into place a ‘Tree Bylaw’, then the perception is that there maybe some closed door dealings??

    Members of council should not sit on ANY corporation (private or public) Boards. This fiasco (and a conflict of interest) has helped to undermine the Canadian Senate. Clearly illustrated by Pamela Wallin.

  • This is a personal decision each candidate must make.I don’t accept campaign contributions from either businesses or friends and aquaintances. This is true for all nine elections I have run in even when the position paid about $12,000 per year.

  • Shannon Gillies

    Ten or fifteen-thousand dollars to run a campaign? Try close to $20,000. In general, it’s much easier for incumbents and those who’ve run campaigns in the past to raise funds than it is for a newbie.

    Anyone who trades their integrity for $750 is an idiot. Pretty much every single vote that councillors have made in favour of proposed developments has been made on the recommendation of city staff anyway. The notion that councillors and developers are all conspiring against their consciences, and against the good of the city, for a $750 cheque every four years is beyond ludicrous.

    Why are developers any different than anyone else who has business interests in the city? Are we going to say no to contributions from restaurants? They have an interest in certain decisions that are made by council. How about those mobile sign companies? Council votes on bylaws concerning them. How about a bike shop? Councillors vote on cycling infrastructure. Why is it okay to accept a donation from a company that has a contract with the Region, but not from a developer?

    • Henri de Beaujolais

      There are limits as to how much money can be spent in each ward based on population. Most wards in Burlington would fall under $12,000. And if you look at the last elections you will see that some candidates spent close to zero and others close to the maximum of 10 or $12,000. I believe the current mayor spent close to $100,000 in the last election.

  • Steve

    I don’t see an issue with the contribution if all council members received it. Obviously the developer wants to see the incumbents win, to make his life easier.
    Just wondering … does Burlington have a rebate program like Oakville, Toronto and Ottawa for municipal contributions?

  • Hans Jacobs

    It is admirable that Marianne Meed Ward returned the donation; hopefully the other candidates will follow her example.