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Most councillors rely on corporate donations


Jul 05, 2007


Most of the city councillors elected last fall relied heavily on corporations to fund their campaigns. But a new study indicates that corporate dominance in Hamilton is less than in most Toronto area suburbs.

Corporations provided 53% of all the donations over $100 reported by Hamilton’s mayor and councillors, even though six of the sixteen collected none at all. That’s because nine of the other ten got at least two-thirds of their campaign money from corporate donors.
Maria Pearson topped the list, collecting 82% of her funds from corporations. She was closely followed by Bernie Morelli (80%) and Sam Merulla (79%). Dave Mitchell, Terry Whitehead, Lloyd Ferguson, Tom Jackson and Chad Collins were clustered in the 73-75% range, while Brad Clark got 69% of his financial support from corporate donors.
Margaret McCarthy, Mayor Eisenberger, Russ Powers, Brian McHattie, Bob Bratina and Scott Duvall were at the other end of the scale with zero donations from corporations. The first five also took nothing from unions, while Duvall got 45% of his funds from that source.
The remaining councillor, Robert Pasuta, got 40% of his funds from businesses, mainly incorporated farms in his rural ward, and the rest from individuals or his own pocket.
McCarthy took no donations of any kind, personally financing her entire campaign. Russ Powers paid for about three-fifths of his election costs, and got the rest from individuals. Bratina, Eisenberger and McHattie relied 100% on individual donors.
Overall, individual contributions accounted for 24% of campaign funds. That helped put Hamilton citizens in the middle of the pack compared to those in the Toronto area.
York university professor Robert MacDermid released a widely-reported study last week documenting the donations to the 131 winning candidates in Toronto and nine of its suburbs. He found dramatic differences, with citizens donating fully 75% of campaign funds to Toronto winners, but only 11.5% in Oshawa, and under 16% in both Brampton and Whitby. Mississauga, Ajax, Richmond Hill and Vaughn joined Hamilton in the 20-30% range while Markham candidates got almost half their donations from individuals.
Brampton councillors had the highest reliance on corporate largesse at 82%, with Richmond Hill and Pickering close behind at 79%. Hamilton’s 53% was fourth lowest, just behind Markham’s 52%, but still a long way from Ajax and Toronto at 29% and 19% respectively.
Hamilton easily ranked number one in union donations which accounted for nearly 9% of local contributions. The next closest in this category was Toronto at less than 3%. MacDermid’s study doesn’t indicate which unions were contributors, but in Hamilton the field was dominated by those in the construction field.
Duvall collected nearly $11,000 of the $25,000 donated by unions. Nearly all the rest went to Morelli, Whitehead, Collins, Jackson and Merulla. Winners who received no money from unions were Bratina, Clark, Eisenberger, Ferguson, McCarthy, McHattie, Mitchell, Pasuta and Powers.
MacDermid found only 17 Toronto area victors who took no corporate donations, including Toronto mayor David Miller. That amounts to less than 2% of the GTA winners – compared to more than a third of Hamilton’s elected officials. At the other extreme MacDermid reports that 19 councillors got more at least 90 percent of their donations from corporations.
Among reforms he is calling for is a ban on corporate donations – a rule already adopted at the national level and in provincial politics in Manitoba and Quebec.
“Allowing corporations to give is discriminatory as it allows people who hold wealth in corporate forms to give twice to a candidate,” argues MacDermid.
The province makes these rules, a potential issue in this fall’s provincial election.

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