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Here's How Easy It Is To Get Around Ontario's Political Financing Laws

Ontario's Liberals managed to raise ten times more money than they could legally spend during a recent byelection.

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Want to give tens of thousands of dollars to a political party? Too bad. This isn't some old-fashioned kleptocracy. Canada is a modern nation with modern campaign finance laws.

Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne presumably gestures at a pile of money.

Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne presumably gestures at a pile of money.

Nah, just kidding, you can totally do that in Ontario thanks to byelections.

A story Friday from CBC's provincial affairs reporter Mike Crawley shows how the Ontario Liberals pocketed $1.5 million from a byelection they didn't even win.

In theory, a person, corporation or union can only give up to $9,975 to a political party each year.

Even that is insanely generous. It's 6.5 times higher than the federal donation limit of just $1,525.

But Ontario's rules are so loose that every time there's a byelection the cap essentially gets doubled. During every a byelection you can give another 10 grand to the party of your choice and it doesn't count against the normal cap.

During the Whitby-Oshawa byelection this February, 48 companies/associations and three individuals donated the maximum limit to the Liberals despite several of them already making donations this year.

According to the CBC, the Liberals raised $1.6 million while the Conservatives pulled in $784,000. The NDP raised a relatively minor $51,000.

You can only spend $143,000 on a byelection, so all of that excess money gets kicked back to the parties for future use.


With so much money to be raised, no wonder the Ontario government is facing a furor over private fundraisers that forced Premier Kathleen Wynne to promise to end the practice.

Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Paul McLeod at

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