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Randy Hillier challenges election finances law; argues it's unfair to independents
Published Monday, June 10, 2019 12:17PM EDT Last Updated Monday, June 10, 2019 5:43PM EDT
Ontario PC MPP Randy Hillier scrums with reporters following the Throne Speech at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
TORONTO -- A politician who was kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus is asking the courts to change fundraising rules that he says leave independents at a significant disadvantage.
Randy Hillier filed a notice of application recently alleging that certain parts of the Election Finances Act are unconstitutional, violating the democratic rights of citizens.
"My application, should it be successful, would finally overturn a long-standing injustice for independent candidates and diminish the stranglehold that political parties have over our democracy," he said Monday.
"Our current election financing laws have served to obstruct the introduction of new people with new ideas to elected office."
Hillier, who now sits as an independent, was booted out of caucus for not being a "team player" after clashing with advisers to Premier Doug Ford earlier this year.
The act allows riding associations of official parties to fundraise any time, then transfer those funds to a candidate during an election, but independent politicians can only fundraise in a campaign period, Hillier argues.
He wants to run in the next provincial election, scheduled for 2022, as an independent, but could not ask for or receive donations until that writ is issued shortly before the vote.
Asher Honickman, Hillier's lawyer, said the law also allows registered parties to solicit higher maximum amounts. People can donate a maximum of $1,600 each year to a constituency association -- which, by definition in the law only includes registered parties -- in addition to a $1,600 maximum during an election campaign.
"The result is that over the four-year period between elections, party-endorsed MPPs and candidates are effectively entitled to raise $8,000 per contributor, in contrast to independent MPPs and candidates, who are only entitled to raise 20 per cent of that amount, or $1,600 per contributor," he wrote in the court document.
Constituency associations also get a per-vote subsidy and independents do not. In the case of Hillier, as well as other Tories-turned-independents Jim Wilson and Amanda Simard, that means their former associations could use funding based on the votes the candidates garnered in the last election to campaign against them in the next election.
As well, constituency associations can keep any surpluses at the end of a campaign, whereas independents would have to give any extra money to the chief electoral officer, Honickman said.
The Ministry of the Attorney General said it could not comment because the case is before the courts.