Ford government aims for further control over third-party election spending

Premier Doug Ford during a Sept. 24 media conference. YouTube

TORONTO — Provincial elections could look a little different next year, if a new bill introduced by the Ford government passes the legislative assembly in Queens Park.

According to the governing Progressive Conservatives, the Protecting Ontario Elections Act, 2021, takes aim at significant problems facing the electoral system, including what it deems “under-regulated” third-party election spending. The bill would impose a $637,200 limit on such groups in the year leading up to an election, according to media accounts. Corporations and unions have been banned outright from contributing to Ontario political campaigns since 2016, while a plethora of non-profit advocacy groups — ranging from Ontario Proud to the Ontario Health Coalition — can still shill for respective idealogical positions.

The government says the bill also targets collusion, irregular campaign spending and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill will allow electronic registration and increase advance polling days from five to ten, allowing for safer and more convenient access to polling stations. It will lay ground rules for social media accounts operated by MPP’s, and introduce the definition of collusion to prevent outside influences from intervening in elections. And it will double the amount an individual can donate to a candidate, constituency association, or leadership contestant from $1,650 to $3,300, though this amendment has received criticism from members of the opposition.

“We strongly believe that Ontario voters should determine the outcome of elections, not big corporations or unions, American-style political action groups or other outside influences,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “That’s why we are proposing legislative action to protect Ontarians’ essential voice in campaigns and to make it easier to cast a vote safely in an advance poll or on election day. These amendments would help modernize Ontario’s electoral process and ensure it is updated to meet urgent challenges, including COVID-19.”

If the bill is passed, changes will likely go into effect by the next provincial election on June 2nd, 2022.

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