Provincial statutes get different treatment in Burlington and Hamilton - not a good sign

By Pepper Parr

June 21st, 2023



The Ontario municipal election campaign donations appear to be treated one way in Burlington and another in Hamilton.

When the Gazette was doing a series of articles on the donations given to ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith we noted that in his Election Donations and Expenses document (a Forn 4) that Galbraith did not appear to have opened a separate election campaign bank account; a requirement before he could accept donations.

Burlington City Clerk Keven Arjoon – a little loosey goosey when it comes to ensuring that candidate reports are reviewed.

When we brought this to the attention of Burlington City Clerk Keven Arjoon his office responded that they did not go through the reports in detail, other than to confirm that it was provided by the candidate.

Hamilton has a much different approach. Hamilton City Clerk, Andrea Holland presented a report to Council in which she set out a number of donation infractions.

If the name Andrea Holland sounds familiar – it should. She was at one time a Burlington employee working in the Clerk’s office. She was one of a number of bright women who found greener grass in other municipalities.

In Hamilton a special committee must decide whether to take some of Hamilton’s biggest developers and business names to court for allegedly donating too much to candidates in last year’s city election.

Under Ontario election law, no donor is allowed to contribute more than $1,200 to a single municipal candidate or more than $5,000 in total. Candidates are required by law to tell prospective donors about the limits, but it is up to donors to ensure they do not contribute more in total than the law allows.

A review by the Hamilton City Clerk of financial contributions made during the election last fall found several donors who “appear” to have violated the maximum donation rule — although not by much, in most cases.

That triggered a meeting of an arms-length “election compliance audit committee” to decide if a violation occurred — and if so, whether it warrants pursuing rare court action that could result in fines.
Several big-name donors were under the microscope – but only one, Sam Mercanti, showed up in person.

“I apologize,” said the 75-year-old founder of national auto body chain Carstar, who told the committee he was unaware of the $5,000 donation limit that he exceeded by $700. “Now that I know, it will not happen again.”

Other notable donors on the alleged over-contribution list included:
Darivoj (Darko) Vranich, Hamilton’s downtown mega developer, appeared to nearly double the donation limit with $9,600 given to eight candidates;

Sergio Manchia, a developer and ubiquitous planning consultant, appeared to donate $5,300 to 13 candidates;

Tighter oversight in Hamilton when it comes to municipal election campaign donations.

Silvio Guglietti, founder of Rosehaven Homes and a multi million-dollar development player in Hamilton’s Elfrida expansion area, appeared to donate $5,200 to seven candidates.

The committee ruled at that time no legal action should be pursued.

The Hamilton committee went behind closed doors to discuss whether to pursue any legal action over violations.

In Burlington any concerns remained in the office of the City Clerk.

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1 comment to Provincial statutes get different treatment in Burlington and Hamilton – not a good sign

  • Lynn Crosby

    It’s not a surprise that rules are broken when there are no repercussions for breaking them. It’s also not a surprise that it isn’t normally random residents who break these, but the deep pocket developers. Are we supposed to believe that Vranich et al didn’t know the rules?

    It’s also not a surprise that our Burlington Clerk is not looking carefully at the forms for compliance, whereas other Clerks clearly are, and then acts on them, bringing them forward to a committee. Elections and election rules are a main component of a municipal Clerk’s job. This lack of attention to such matters is not acceptable. So he won’t look more carefully at the forms? Then we can and should go over his head with a list of infractions or concerns that we find here. The Ministry perhaps? But why is the onus on everyone but the Clerk here in good old COB?