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Ontario parties take one last stab at collecting union and corporate dollars

Having reached a consensus that Ontario's political fundraising laws are the source of obvious conflicts, and having put in motion legislation that will ban corporate and union donations entirely and limit individual donations to $3,600 per party per year as of Jan. 1, you'd think that the political parties of Ontario would take it upon themselves to avoid a practice that all have agreed is morally dubious.

Well, you'd be wrong. We are now living through something akin to the scenario of those dystopian Purge movies, in which the authorities suspend all laws for 12 hours and crime of every kind is permitted. The Ontario Liberals, NDP and Progressive Conservatives aren't committing any crimes, obviously, but they are using the current legal vacuum to rake in as much cash as possible before the siren goes and good behaviour is restored.

Fair enough, some might argue. Parties need money and, until the law is changed, large donations from corporations and unions are allowed. Why not take advantage of the moment?

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Two reasons. One, the parties' desperation to hold last-minute fundraisers falsely implies that this is their last chance to raise the operating cash they require. The parties will still be able to raise money after the law takes effect. The individual maximum in an election year of $3,600, divided between the party, constituency associations and candidates, is more than generous enough.

But that's not the end of it. Based on the current version of the bill, the Liberal Party will get a new publicly funded subsidy of $1.26-million every quarter of 2017. The PCs will get $1.02-million, and the NDP $776,000. Per quarter.

So do not fret. The parties will be fine. Never better, in fact. That leads to the other reason why they shouldn't be writhing about in this eleventh-hour fundraising orgy. Those subsidies were established to replace a system that all agree is badly compromised. It has been too easy for Ontario parties to sell access to cabinet ministers, or to important opposition critics, in return for large donations. When the cash-for-access scandal first broke last year, Premier Kathleen Wynne recognized the conflict of interest and vowed to stop the practice.

And now all the parties are taking one last kick at a discredited can. It's hypocrisy, pure and simple.

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