Ontario’s NDP is promising to ban the practice of MPPs dipping into riding association funds to pay for expenses, in the wake of a Global News investigation into how donations to the Ontario PC party are being used.
Global News uncovered eight Ontario Progressive Conservatives who were given allowances from their riding associations, according to financial information filed with Elections Ontario, which paid for meals, entertainment, vehicle costs, gasoline, and even childcare.
Riding associations typically generate revenue through donations to the party and from a per-vote subsidy which results in thousands of dollars in income from Elections Ontario.
In some instances, the MPPs received three sets of taxpayer funded revenue streams: their base salary of $125,000 as a member of provincial parliament, a top-up for serving as cabinet minister and an “allowance” from their riding association.
Horwath called the allowances “disgusting” and suggested it’s a misuse of donor and taxpayer funds.
“To see that money then go to bonuses or payments out to these MPPs. It’s pretty troubling,” Horwath told reporters on the campaign trail and pledged to outlaw the practice.
“I don’t think it should be happening,” Horwath said. “We will ban that practice.”
Topping the list is Lisa Macleod who served as the former minister of Children, Community and Social Service and Tourism Culture and Sport earning a salary of $165,851 in 2021.
According to constituency association annual return filings made publicly available on the Elections Ontario website, MacLeod first received an “expense allowance” in 2017 along with a housing allowance of more than $12,000. Macleod then received $18,200 for “MPP expenses and allowance” in 2018, another $16,727 for “MPP housing/exp allowance” in 2019, and $9,500 for “MPP allowance” in 2020 from the association.
Mississauga East-Cooksville candidate Kaleed Rasheed, who served as the Associate Minister of Digital Government, was given a total of $23,000 in allowances from the PC riding association bank account.
According to public filings with Elections Ontario, Rasheed received $11,000 in 2019 and $12,000 in 2020 from the riding association while, at the same time, being paid more than $130,000 as an MPP and as chair of a legislative committee.
The payments are simply listed as “MPP allowance” with no further breakdown of how those funds were used.
Another cabinet minister, Greg Rickford from the Kenora Rainy-River riding, expensed a total of $14,640 since 2019 that the riding association listed as “MPP expense allowance” and “MPP car allowance.”
Barrie-Innsifil MPP Andrea Khanjin received an “MPP allowance” in 2019 and 2020 totaling $6,500, while Mississauga-Lakeshore MPP Rudy Cuzzetto was given a total of $5,631 since 2019 under a line item called “MPP expenses.”
Belinda Karahalios, who represented the Ontario PCs in Cambridge until 2020 when she was removed from the party by Ford, was paid $1,139 by the riding association in 2019 for “MPP child care expenses.”
Among the eight PC MPPs, the biggest spender was Don Valley North’s Vincent Ke who charged the riding association $54,717 since 2018 on a range of expenses including nearly $30,000 in 2018 on “meals, food and drink”, another $12,000 in 2019 on “meals and entertainment” and more than $13,000 since 2018 on gas, parking and auto-related expenses.
Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said the practice is especially “troubling” given the cutbacks the Ford government implemented shortly after taking office.
“I think it is troubling for those individuals who are receiving an MPP is compensation or salary. And then, frankly, from this particular party, telling the people of Ontario that they had to freeze the minimum wage four years ago,” Del Duca said.
The Ontario Liberals are pledging to appoint a non-partisan “citizens assembly” to examine election finance laws, but stopped short of promising an outright ban.
In a statement to Global News, the PC party defended the allowances given to the eight MPPs.
“All riding association expenses are approved by the local riding association executive, audited by a licensed auditor, and all audited financial statements are reviewed and approved by Elections Ontario,” said campaign spokesperson Ivana Yelich.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.