While the left-wing media continues to beat the war drums against corporate donations, another possible suspect could be behind Ontario’s dark underbelly of third-party spending, namely unions.
According to the Globe and Mail “Ontario unions have spent more than $15-million to campaign in the past three general elections, 94 per cent of all third-party advertising.”
Of course, this advertising has not been as targeted, since they are organized by two umbrella groups, Working Families, and Project Ontario, which both have names that are not obviously connected to unions and strong ties to other political parties.
Working Families employs a communications firm that has also held major contracts with the Ontario Liberal Party, while veteran NDP strategist Brian Topp was a leader of Project Ontario during the most recent election.
Where are we now?
Thankfully, their spending in the six months before the campaign for the next election will be limited to $600,000, and $100,000 during the campaign.
The restrictions will have some effect in lowering the ability of these third-party groups, but it still leaves large amounts of space for them to disseminate information.
Problems Going Forward
Although these restrictions do serve to limit some of the union-backed money, they seem to be more of a response to a new factor in Ontario’s politics, than any real attempt to limit union spending.
This new factor is the birth of organizations like Ontario Proud which originated as a grassroots response towards the poor management of the province.
Groups like Ontario Proud have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers (far larger than political parties in the province) by being able to better channel the discontent of voters, not by shoveling large sums of money at them as with unions and corporate donors.
The addition of grassroots organizations to the political landscape is likely what caused the Liberals to set these new limits, despite the fact that other third-party groups have been problematically increasing their influence in elections for a long time.
Unlike unions and political groups—which rely on an uncomfortable combination of alliance making and backroom dealing—pages like Ontario Proud simply regurgitates what is actually being said at the grassroots level, which is free of political correctness, backroom deals, and monied interests.
Because of this connection to the grassroots, I suspect that these new restrictions won’t stop organizations like Ontario Proud from punching above their weights in the arena of corporate and union political advertising.
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