Get corporate and union money out of municipal politics: Nussbaum (Alex Robinson, Ottawa East News)


Tobi Nussbaum has launched an effort to get corporate and union money out of municipal politics.

The Rideau-Rockcliffe councillor is looking to make good on a campaign promise to get rid of corporate and union campaign contributions by introducing a motion at city council that could lead to banning the practice.

“If you’re a member of a union or the owner of a corporation, you have two opportunities to donate and that’s a right that’s not afforded to other citizens,” he said.

“So it really is an issue of equality and fairness and making sure we are treating people the same.”

The Municipal Elections Act prohibits individuals from donate more than $750 to a single candidate or $5,000 in total. Members of unions or corporate executives get an added opportunity to donate through those organizations.

The rookie councillor made the issue central to his campaign and refused to accept any money from corporate donors or unions.

Nussbaum’s motion will ask the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to make an amendment the Municipal Elections Act allowing the city to pass a bylaw banning corporate and union contributions.

“All this motion is doing is seeking to have legislation amended so that council has the power to enact such a bylaw,” Nussbaum said.

“This motion is also about local control, local accountability – making sure that here in the city we’re the masters of our own destiny in terms of determining our campaign rules.”

Ottawa would not be the first to ban such donations as Toronto successfully petitioned the province to do the same thing in 2009.

Opponents of the changes have said the business community has the right to participate in the electoral process as much as individuals.

“It is important to remember that the business community are the same people that built the homes we live in, the offices we work in and the hotels we stay in when we travel,” said Orléans Coun. Bob Monette, who said his campaign received about half of its donations from corporate coffers in the past election.

“So why would they not be able to participate?”

Mayor Jim Watson also supports the status quo.

Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Michael Qaqish, who accepted corporate donations during the recent election, supports Nussbaum’s motion.

“I see it as another step in the direction of a cleaner municipal government and more transparency and accountability,” he said.

He views the potential ban as an extension of current reforms brought into effect in the previous term of council, including the creation of the integrity commissioner’s position and the gift registry, which councillors use to disclose any gifts they accept.

Currently, city councillors are not permitted to accept gifts from a developer or corporation that has an active lobbying file with the city.

“If we can’t accept (gifts) during non-campaigns in the four years, why is it that we can accept cheques from them (during the campaign) when chances are they have active files with the city or have lobbying efforts with the city?” Qaqish said.

The motion is set to come up before city council for a vote on April 15.

Source: Ottawa East News