MacLauchlan flip flops on ban

Published on December 14, 2016

Premier Wade MacLauchlan prepares for the day's legislative assembly proceedings on Nov. 23, 2016.

©Ryan Ross/TC Media

First he says he will, then he says he won’t? P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan announced back in May that he would be banning corporate donations to political parties. This week, he says he won’t impose the ban.

When a company or individual is donating large amounts of funds to a party, it would be difficult to say no to them when they come looking for favours, or when contracts are being issued, or when issues arise that directly affect those businesses. Even if that is not happening, there is certainly the perception out there that it is. Journal Pioneer editorial board

Now, he plans to just put a cap on political donations. There is no indication what that cap might be, but if it is a high number, say $50,000, then he might as well leave no limits for those who wish to help fund a political party. A more reasonable cap would be $5,000, but an all-out ban is best.

As it stands now, there are absolutely no limitations when it comes to accepting funds for political parties on P.E.I. We are only one of three provinces that have no caps or restrictions in place, and will soon be one of two.

All provinces should have bans on political donations.

It may be difficult for parties to raise money to fund their political machines, but the current method is unfair. Banning donations from corporations and unions would place all parties on a more level playing field.

Just as in sports, despite how much talent and heart your players may have, it’s hard for a team to compete with others that have 10 times the financial resources.

Historically, the bulk of P.E.I. political donations from businesses have gone to the Liberals or Progressive Conservatives. Just a year ago, this issue was raised when it was uncovered that the J.D. Irving conglomerate stuffed $20,000 into the pockets of the Liberal party and over $16,000 into the PC coffers in 2015 alone. The Cox & Palmer law firm in Charlottetown contributed $14,310 to the Liberal party last year.

These donations would even exceed the limits imposed on contributions to parties in the largest and richest provinces. For instance, in Ontario, the contribution limit is $9,975 to a central party in any year.

When a company or individual is donating large amounts of funds to a party, it would be difficult to say no to them when they come looking for favours, or when contracts are being issued, or when issues arise that directly affect those businesses. Even if that is not happening, there is certainly the perception out there that it is.

P.E.I. is a small province. Politicians are very close to their constituents, and their contributors. They know who their friends are.

That’s why corporations, like the Irvings, contribute so much to both mainstream parties. One or the other was likely to be in power after the 2015 provincial election.

Money does influence. A ban on political donations would certainly be a step towards breaking up that relationship.