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Video: Professor Robert MacDermid on mayoral elections, votor cynicism and transparency

Video: Professor Robert MacDermid on mayoral elections, votor cynicism and transparency

Toronto candidates for mayor George Smitherman, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson intend to keep their donor lists a secret until the law requires them to disclose the names more than five months after election day, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 17:

The holdouts aren’t breaking any rules, but they are deviating from a practice that has become the norm in megacity elections, wrote the Globe. In 2006 and 2003, the top candidates for mayor disclosed their contribution lists before ballots were cast.

“I think they’re behind the curve on their understanding of voters’ interest in this,” said Robert MacDermid, a professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies who studies municipal campaign finance. “If we could poll people on this issue, I think we would find a large majority in favour of telling people where the money comes from before the election happens. I think maybe these three candidates haven’t appreciated that.

“I’m perplexed at why it would make much difference before or after,” MacDermid said. “They [donors] know that their names are going to be made public afterward if they contributed more than $100. What difference would it make?”

MacDermid, who has extensive research experience in municipal politics, has lobbied for a ban on corporate funding of municipal election campaigns:

He was also quoted in The Windsor Star Sept. 18:

Another proposal worthy of implementation is ensuring early disclosure of campaign donations. Voters should be able to assess the weight of donations from developers, business, trade unions and other special interest groups before the election, not several months later.

“It’s better to know beforehand where the money comes from,” said Robert MacDermid, a political scientist in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “A person should be able to look and see if a candidate is totally supported by the development industry, then judge accordingly.”

Transparent and timely access to donation records -- as well as preventing undue influence by powerful groups -- will give voters a reason to cast their ballots.
Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, with files courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.