McNeil draws a specious distinction

Liberal Donor John Bragg

Liberal Donor John Bragg

Liberal leader Steven McNeil tries to draw a distinction between political contributions from unions and those from corporations on the grounds that the next premier will have to negotiate with unions.

In fact, the next government is far more likely to find itself negotiating with the companies owned by John Bragg, whose Oxford Seafoods Ltd. is one of McNeil’s two largest donors, than with the Mainland Building and Construction Trades Council and its member unions.

Bragg’s companies, including Eastlink, have multiple business dealings with the province, including bidding on contracts and receiving loans and other assistance. The Trades Council negotiates mainly with a parallel employers’ council consisting of large construction companies. Its members are not public sector unions and would have little occasion to negotiate with government.

Public sector unions are a different story. The refusal of Ontario public sector unions to cut the short-lived Bob Rae government any slack in dealing with a fiscal crisis contributed to Rae’s downfall.

News reports credited McNeil with releasing his party’s donations this week, but in fact, he withheld the names all individual donors, a group that accounts for more than one-third of the money he has received.

Among other things, the decision makes it impossible to know the total amount the Liberals received from the Bragg family.

McNeil said privacy demanded the secrecy. But the whole point of campaign disclosure is that political donations should not be private.

The $5,000 limit imposed in 2007 hurt the NDP, which typically received a small number of very large donations from unions, more than it hurt Liberals and Tories, whose corporate donations rarely topped that $5,000.

The PCs and the Libs rejected an NDP offer to ban union and business donations altogether. At last night’s spirited ATV CTV-Atlantic debate, they agreed to consider it.

They probably won’t have to. Banning all such donations will likely be one of the first acts of the majority NDP government that’s poised to take office later thisĀ  month.

The three major parties have agreed to release their donations, although it’s not clear whether the NDP and the PCs will follow the Liberals’ lead and keep most of their donors secret.

Question: Will the Green Party be releasing its list of donors?