The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has so far reported roughly 1,300 donations related to a major fundraising dinner that took place more than three weeks ago, representing less than half the total number of ticket-holders.
The party says more than 3,300 people attended an event called the Leader’s Dinner – which had a price tag of $1,250 a person – but has declined multiple requests to disclose how much money the event raised. In his keynote address, Premier Doug Ford boasted that the fundraiser was the largest in Canadian history.
“This event had thousands of individual ticket-holders. Our staff is still working hard to process the remaining payments,” party spokesman Marcus Mattinson said.
The party enlisted registered lobbyists to help sell tickets for the Feb. 27 fundraiser after initial sales lagged. Several sources within companies and industry groups said they felt pressure to attend and sell tickets in order to maintain high-level access to the government, The Globe and Mail reported last month. The sources were granted anonymity by The Globe because they said they feared negative professional consequences. The party denied that people were told that government access could suffer if they didn’t buy tickets.
According to the latest available information on Elections Ontario’s website, the PC Party has reported 1,333 contributions of $1,050, which Mr. Mattinson says represents each ticket-holder’s donation to the party after expenses. Under provincial rules, political parties must disclose contributions to Elections Ontario within 10 business days of depositing the funds.
Mr. Mattinson said that expenses for the dinner are not yet final and the party may amend the disclosed donation amounts in the future.
In addition, the PC Party has reported 302 donations of $1,250, which matches the dinner’s ticket price, to Elections Ontario. Mr. Mattinson did not respond to questions about whether those contributions represent ticket sales for which expenses have not yet been deducted.
After The Globe reported that the party had enlisted registered lobbyists to help sell tickets, Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner asked Elections Ontario to determine whether the PC Party’s alleged pressure on companies to sell tickets to clients constituted an attempt to bypass the province’s ban on corporate donations.
Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers introduced a private member’s bill earlier this week to remove what she characterizes as gaps in the law that can be manipulated by corporations and unions to make back-channel political contributions by funnelling money through individuals.
Under new rules that took effect Jan. 1, the Ford government scrapped a ban that prevented a premier, cabinet ministers and MPPs from attending fundraisers. In addition, the government removed a requirement that all donors fill out a form certifying that their contributions were from their own personal funds and that they will not be reimbursed.