If I wasn’t suspicious by nature, I’d say that elections were decided by Joe Public getting out and voting. Everybody’s vote is equal – right? Wrong.
It’s who’s got the extra clout. In five years, according to Robert MacDermid, a political science professor at York University in Toronto, who tracks such things, the Ontario Tories have received a staggering $50 million from business interests. This, MacDermid said, is an incredible amount of dough for any provincial party to receive. (Joe Clark must be envious.)
The Ontario Tory fundraisers claim it’s altruism. Tory Fat Wallets want to have someone they admire intensely stay in office and in turn sprinkle some gold dust their way. Yes, they would consider generous financial support an example of altruism.
But what happens when the gold dust the Tory donors thought was coming to them doesn’t arrive? Take for example the Canadian Highways International Corp., which designed and built toll Highway 407. They donated almost $580,000 to the Tories but when they did not get the contract to operate the 407 their donations dropped off dramatically. It was a sad case of altruism dying overnight. What kind of Tory gratitude is that?! According to Brian Mulroney, you’re supposed to dance with the guy that brung you.
“These people and their businesses hope to get something in return,” Professor MacDermid said, noting that the Ontario Tories budget in May included tax breaks for mining companies, totalling $20 million over 10 years. Toronto’s Latner family and its various companies, including Greenwin Property Management Inc., Canada’s largest property management company, gave the Tories a total of $371,000. They didn’t have to die to get their reward. The Latner family was part of a group awarded a $411 million casino tourism contract in Niagara Falls.
In an article by Richard Brennan in the Toronto Star, MacDermid lists Fat Wallets who shovelled out “really quite enormous amounts (of money).” He said, “The development industry is by far the largest sector supporting the (Ontario) Tories. The next biggest is the financial industry.” Business donations amount to almost 60 per cent of donated money.
Businessman Peter Munk and his various companies gave the Tories about $750,000 in personal and corporate donations over a five-year period. Large development firms owned by Nick Cortelucci and Saverio Montemarano donated almost $670,000.
What does this all mean to us common clay voters? It means Fat Wallets make it easy for the Tories to spend almost endless piles of money twisting our heads around telling us that they’re doing a great job. The Ontario Tories spent $17.9 million last year in their successful bid to win the support of the Ontario voters, including a cool $7 million on propaganda.
Competition must be good for political fundraising too. The federal Liberals outdid the Ontario Tories when they received almost $74 million during the same period! I can’t see Ontario Liberal leader McGuinty doing much squawking about Tory greed.
Here’s the equation: money buys advertising, advertising gets you votes, and more money buys more advertising and should get you more votes. All together a lot of generous Fat Wallets can shape public opinion in the direction they want it to go. They can’t sell a rat’s skin as silver mink but they can come darn close.
We need a conflict of interest law that forbids Fat Wallets from giving outrageous sums of money to political parties in order to buy their gratitude – and not just around election time.
In the meantime – it’s back the Brink’s truck up at Queen’s Park. It’s one place where inflation’s here to stay.
I just had this wild idea that Conrad Black might abandon the UK and take over the leadership of the Ontario Family Coalition Party! What a lucky break it would be for the FCP! Conrad could ask his wife, Barbara Amiel, to write glowing editorials about the FCP in all their papers and enthusiastic reports about hubby’s pro-life position and what he was prepared to do as the new premier of Ontario.
Suddenly I blinked and realized that Conrad would have to run all this material by the new owner of most of Conrad’s papers, powerful Winnipeg media magnate Israel (Izzy) Asper! Izzy, finding some of Conrad’s pro-life ideas repugnant, would doubtlessly refuse to publish it.
Then Conrad would know what it was like being a mute voice in the wilderness. That’s us.