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BROKEN PROMISE: Ford expands political welfare program, costing Ontario taxpayers millions

Jay GoldbergThanks to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, a record number of political parties are cashing in on your dime.

Five years ago, Ford promised to eliminate Ontario’s political welfare program. Instead, he’s expanded it, extended it and made it even more costly.

During the 2018 provincial election campaign, Ford promised to scrap the political welfare system that was the brainchild of former premier Kathleen Wynne.

Wynne’s 2017 election law gives quarterly taxpayer-funded political welfare payments to political parties that receive either two percent of the vote province-wide or an average of five percent of the vote in ridings where the party ran a candidate. These payments are calculated based on election results and are handed out throughout the subsequent term.

political welfare ford ontario
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Until this year, only four parties qualified for these payments and all had seats in the legislature: the Progressive Conservatives, NDP, Liberals and Greens.

But now, because of the 2022 provincial election results, two new parties can join in and take your cash.

In the 2022 campaign, the New Blue Party won more than two percent of the vote province-wide, while the Ontario Party won sufficient support in the ridings in which the party ran.

That means they qualify for quarterly taxpayer handouts.

Because Ford refused to end Wynne’s welfare parade, these two minor parties received a combined $134,000 at the end of June. Total payments to all parties amounted to just over $3 million.

All told, over $68 million of political welfare payments have been handed out on Ford’s watch.

It wasn’t so long ago that Ford adamantly opposed Wynne’s political welfare system.

As the Progressive Conservative Party’s newly minted leader in 2018, Ford declared that he did not “believe the government should be taking money from hard-working taxpayers and giving it to political parties.”

When Ford was elected in 2018, one might have expected him to end Wynne’s political welfare program immediately. Instead, he dithered, pledging to slowly roll back the program instead of eliminating it right away.

Then, when the pandemic hit, Ford expanded the program. He increased the payments being made to political parties. In 2020, parties received 55 cents four times a year for every vote they received in the prior election. In 2021, that number increased to 64 cents.

Ford blamed the pandemic for increasing political welfare handouts, claiming that it would mean parties wouldn’t be able to raise as much money from their supporters.

Heaven forbid political parties have to tighten their belts like virtually every household across the province.

But Ford’s prediction never actually bore fruit. In 2021, the year Ford ramped up his political welfare payments, Ontario’s political parties collectively raised $16 million, a record for a non-election year.

Clearly, Ontario’s political fundraising wasn’t adversely affected by the pandemic.

In light of this evidence, did Ford change course?

Of course not. Political welfare payments today are at the same rate as in 2021, despite the pandemic being in the rearview mirror.

Now, thanks to this government’s refusal to keep its promise to voters, political welfare cheques are going to more parties than ever before.

But there is some hope on the horizon.

The election legislation Ford passed in 2021 extending the province’s political welfare regime also includes a sunset clause for the beginning of 2025.

The good news is that the Ford government has now committed itself to a political welfare end date.

The bad news is that the government’s self-imposed end date is still a year and a half away.

But taxpayers don’t have to accept Ford’s weak excuses.

If Ontario taxpayers band together and demand that Ford stop handing over precious tax dollars to political parties today, we can force Ford to change course and stop the gravy train in the next budget.

It’s time for Ontario taxpayers to stand up and be heard.

Jay Goldberg is the Ontario & Interim Atlantic Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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