Ontario Premier Doug Ford is defending raising more than half a million dollars for the PC Party through donations to his debt-free leadership campaign, but says he is open to reviewing the province’s campaign-finance rules.
Mr. Ford said the law allows supporters to double up on donations by giving to the central party as well as to his long-concluded leadership bid. Since his campaign owes no money, the cash will be transferred to the Progressive Conservative Party, allowing donors who have maxed out their party contributions a way to give more. Leadership candidates typically raise money after a vote to repay debts.
“We can always review it, but it’s been going on for years. And by all means are we taking an opportunity to raise some funds, just like the NDP, just like the Liberals?” he said on Tuesday during an event at an automotive-electronics manufacturer in Markham, Ont. “They can do it federally as well. Until the rules change, we’re going to play by the rules.”
Asked if he would consider changing those rules in the interests of openness, Mr. Ford said the practice was already transparent but agreed that he would consider a review: “By all means, we’re always open to reviewing stuff.”
Provincial law allows individuals to contribute a maximum of $1,600 to a party annually and, in the case of parties with leadership races, an additional $1,600 to each candidate. Former PC leadership contenders can accept donations until May 9, which is 14 months after the vote won by Mr. Ford.
Under the rules, contributions to a debt-free leadership bid must be turned over to the party.
The Globe and Mail reported earlier this week that Mr. Ford’s leadership campaign has raised $528,684 since last May, when a financial statement shows his successful bid had no debt. Of that amount, $205,860 was donated in the first three months of 2019, according to data on Elections Ontario’s website.
A Globe analysis found that 69 per cent of donors to Mr. Ford’s leadership campaign between January and March of this year also gave money to the PC Party of Ontario.
Earlier this week, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath asked Elections Ontario to review donations to Mr. Ford’s leadership campaign, calling the fundraising “a blatant attempt” to get around contribution limits. She also asked the agency to force Mr. Ford to give refunds to supporters who donated more than the $1,600 annual limit to a party by also contributing to his leadership campaign.
Last month, the NDP asked chief electoral officer Greg Essensa to conduct a wide-ranging investigation into political parties’ fundraising practices after recent controversies, including the PC Party’s enlisting of registered lobbyists to help sell tickets to a fundraising dinner.