New election financing rules will impede opposition, says Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod

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STAFF WRITER
The Ottawa Construction News

The only current Conservative Party MPP in eastern Ontario offered some dire warnings about election financing and fairness when she addressed Ottawa residential builders in October.

Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod says impending legislation that will bar MPPs, corporations and unions from fundraising beginning in January 2017, will tilt the political balance to the incumbent Liberal government – even though the new measures have been introduced because of publicity about abusive “cash for access” events co-ordinated by the same government.

She spoke at a Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) breakfast event sponsored by Bell on Oct. 14.

The Liberals have used expensive fundraising events – where lobbyists and special interest groups pay hefty fees to gain access to government leaders – to pay down their debt from the last election. Campaigns can cost $100,000 in individual ridings and $10 million provincially, MacLeod said.

While the new rules will restrict MPPs, including cabinet ministers, from playing the cash for access game, non-elected party officials will still be able to work around the rules, she said. “They can ban MPPs from attending fundraisers, but the chief of staff for the minister of energy is allowed to hold fundraisers and give out contracts.”

In any case, the “cash for access” issue only is relevant to the incumbent government. “If I’m a minister of the crown, and I have to raise $500,000” for a dinner, guests can be expected to pay $10,000 per person. “If you can’t come, you can’t meet with me.”

“But is it wrong to say you are not able to contribute $100 or $1,000 if a politician is giving a speech?” Modest fundraising events, where fees are in the tens or hundreds of dollars, certainly don’t compromise any ethical boundaries, and the elimination of these events will leave both the NDP and Conservative parties saddled with major debts from the last election, while the Liberals will have substantial resources to wage the next fight, she indicated.

In her speech, MacLeod says she appreciates the homebuilding industry’s challenges and interests, in part because she represents a community where much new housing construction is under way.

Important issues include the Ontario Municipal Board review and the Eastern Ontario Growth Plan. “It is important you make your views known,” she said.

“It is important we have a long-term vision on how we develop the city.”

She says there are many problems with the current government. “We (previously) had the highest growth in Canada,” she said. “Now we have the slowest, behind Prince Edward Island.”

Taxes are far too high and are increasing, especially with the massive hydro rate growth. It is becoming harder and harder for employers to do business, and for individuals to afford homes, she said, observing that “350,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since the government took office.”

“We are not business friendly,” she said.

“We are not family friendly.” Despite the problems, MacLeod says the government can be defeated. “We can make it (the province) great again,” she said. “We can bring jobs back, and some sanity to public finances, and we can start to restore pride and trust people have in Ontario.”

In office, as critic for some of the toughest economic portfolios including revenue, education, energy and treasury board, she has been able to travel throughout the province and says “we’re going to see really good people step up to the plate” to fight for change.

But these challenges will be greater if the new election financing law goes through, she says.

“I call it the ‘kill off the opposition’ bill if it passes,” MacLeod said.

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