A fundraising event in Toronto for mayoral candidate Jim Watson is completely within the rules of municipal campaigns, though he would rather see the city’s campaign rebate program restricted to Ottawa residents.
The $300-per-ticket April 6 event has raised some alarm, since any person attending the event is eligible for a $187.50 rebate from the city. Corporate and union donations do not get a rebate.
Many of the people attending the event are friends, said Watson, who are from Ottawa and now happen to live in Toronto, who would like to donate to his campaign.
“Most of the people are coming through their companies, not through personal cheques, so they are not even going to be eligible for the rebate,” said Watson.
Watson said his preference is that the campaign rebates be just for people in Ottawa, but that was a decision made by city council.
Bay Ward Coun. and mayoral candidate Alex Cullen said soliciting funds from residents outside of Ottawa was not the intent of the program. Cullen also suggested that the program be restricted to Ottawa residents. Watson pointed out that in the previous election Mayor Larry O’Brien received at least $5,850 from donors who listed addresses in the Greater Toronto Area.
O’Brien even had three corporate donations from business with addresses listed in Quebec.
Under the municipal act, businesses can donate to campaigns in Ontario as long as they operate within the province.
O’Brien will not comment until he has decided whether or not to seek re-election. However, Cullen said he received a call from O’Brien recently, with the mayor encouraging him to do something about Watson’s event.
“If someone else brought it to my attention I would have done the same thing anyway. It doesn’t matter that it was Larry, but it makes for a cute story,” Cullen said.
“I find it a bit of a bizarre situation, the two of them conspiring together,” Watson said.
“It’s quite ironic to see them working together for the first time.”