I’m not surprised that Ontario PC Leader John Tory worked his buns off to eliminate the party’s $10-million-plus debt in two years. What does surprise me is that Premier Pinocchio and his backroom advisers let Tory do so unencumbered by new fundraising limits or corporate donor restrictions, as the Liberals and then Conservatives implemented federally.
But, if you can believe it, McGuinty promised he would do just that. (Another broken promise. Go figure.) Yes, among the 200-plus promises in the Fiberals’ voluminous 2003 election platform was a pledge to “give you the power over the role of money in politics, by asking you to set strict limits on the amounts political parties can raise and spend” (“Government that works for you,” p. 2). How were they going to do this? “We will ask you and your fellow citizens to set those limits through Citizens’ Juries." (“Government that works for you,” p. 12).
Instead, the Fiberals seem to have put all their eggs in their Willy Wonka-inspired electoral reform initiative, or Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform, consisting of one randomly-selected person from each riding. This gussied-up focus group is charged with coming up with alternatives to the first-past-the-post electoral system. (There is no mention of election or party financing in the assembly’s consultation guide.) The assembly's public consultations wrap up at the end of January.
I know what you’re thinking: perhaps this is all a fiendishly clever Fiberal plan to make the Tories look beholden to big business. Sorry, but that ship sailed when McGuinty held the first of his annual $1-million-plus fundraising dinners. And John Tory’s not the one living in a $1-million Rosedale house that his party bought for him (that’s mortgaged to the hilt to boot) – the Guinster is.
Slowing the Tories’ progress in paying off their debt before going into an election would have netted a comparative financial advantage for the Liberals, with the added benefit of actually keeping one of their election promises. Instead, they have tied up $1 million of their borrowing capacity to buy a house for their leader to live in. You’re doing a heckuva job, Dalton!