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EDITORIAL: Remove corporate gifts from campaign financing in P.E.I.

['Opposition MLA James Aylward.']
['Opposition MLA James Aylward.']

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – It was no surprise when James Aylward announced he’d be seeking the leadership role in the Progressive Conservative party.

The Stratford-Kinlock MLA made his intensions official at a gathering of supporters in Charlottetown on Tuesday.

Right out of the starting gate, Aylward made some big promises that, hopefully, he will keep.

He says, if elected premier of P.E.I., he will reform campaign financing by banning corporate and union donations from P.E.I. politics. This pledge he plans to implement immediately into his leadership campaign.

In addition to his vow to not accept donations from corporations or unions, he said he will “publicly release a full list of donors to my campaign.

“I want to prove to Islanders I am a man of my word,” added Aylward.

It looks as though the current premier is not interested in keeping his word when it comes to corporate gifts.

Last year, Premier Wade MacLauchlan announced he would eliminate political donations from corporations, businesses and unions entirely and place a $1,500-a-year cap on donations from individuals. Six months later, he backtracked on this promise, saying he will continue to allow corporate donations and, instead, impose a cap of $3,000 for businesses, individuals and unions.

MacLauchlan also promised public consultations on campaign financing in the summer of 2016. But none were held, and to date, no actual legislative changes have been made regarding campaign finances.

Currently, Prince Edward Island is one of only three provinces with no limits to political contribution amounts. Any individual, corporation or trade union can give money to P.E.I. political parties, even if they are from an outside jurisdiction.

In 2016 the Liberal party raised $403,423 from individual and corporate donors, including some big businesses from outside P.E.I.

The Green Party is the only political party in P.E.I. that does not accept corporate donations, so all of its fundraising in 2016 came from individual donations, with no one providing more than $1,100.

Even though much of the NDP funds also fall in the category of smaller donations (under $250), they do receive two sizable donations from the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker has continued to call for more limits to political financing on the Island. He hasn’t been successful in convincing the government yet. However, he has kept his word by not accepting any.

Aylward can do likewise and keep his promise to not accept such donations for his leadership campaign. That will be a good indication he is actually a man of his word.

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