Mitzie Hunter enters race to lead Ontario Liberals

Mitzie Hunter enters race to lead Ontario Liberals
Canadian Press
August 15, 2019
August 15, 2019 8:25 AM EDT
Mitzie Hunter. Tyler Kula/Postmedia Network
Another former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister has announced plans to seek the party’s top job.
Mitzie Hunter, who served as education minister until the 2018 election that reduced the Liberals to third-party status, launched her leadership bid Wednesday night and said she hopes to rebuild the party’s fortunes.
“Our party must reconnect, revitalize and reboot our approach to making this province more affordable and to creating more opportunities for Ontarians,” Hunter said in a speech delivered in her east-Toronto riding.
“To do this we need a strong leader with an experienced background willing to make bold moves. That’s what we need and that’s why I’m running for leadership.”
Hunter criticized the many program cuts made by Premier Doug Ford’s government since his Progressive Conservatives swept to power last year.
Last year’s election, which handed Ford a majority mandate, saw the Liberals claim just seven seats in the legislature and fall one short of the threshold for official party status.
Hunter was one of the former Liberals to be re-elected, a fact she cited as part of her personal history of beating the odds.
As leader Hunter said a key goal would be to knock on a million doors in the run-up to the 2022 election to ensure the Liberals are back in the political mix.
Under her leadership, Hunter said the party’s goals would include raising the high school education rate to 90 per cent, making it easier for workers to upgrade their skills or obtain new credentials, and extending the province’s health insurance program to cover mental health care for residents under 30.
“My vision is rooted in the everyday reality of Ontarians. That this province needs to become more affordable and we need to create more opportunities,” Hunter said in prepared remarks.
Hunter is the third former cabinet minister to run for the leadership.
Former child and youth services minister Michael Coteau and past economic development minister Steven Del Duca have already announced their bids.
Former policy adviser Alvin Tedjo has also declared his candidacy.
The party set out rules for the leadership contest in June, announcing it would maintain the status quo by running a delegated convention next year. Candidates will be required to pay $100,000, a quarter of which is being treated as a conditionally refundable deposit.
The leadership convention will take place on March 6 and 7 in Mississauga.

Candidates will be required to pay $100,000, a quarter of which is being treated as a conditionally refundable deposit.

Tell me again that the average person has a hope in hell of ever getting into high level politics?
LILLEY: Ontario Liberal race gets its first scandal
Brian Lilley
September 10, 2019
September 10, 2019 6:54 PM EDT
Liberal leadership candidate Mitzie Hunter. (Postmedia Network)
Are some candidates playing fast and loose with the spirit of Ontario’s election laws and taking big money donations as they seek to become leader of the provincial Liberal party?
Four of the five leadership contenders all say they are not taking money from corporation or unions and have not taken any donations above $1,600. Mitzie Hunter’s campaign refuses to say the same.
Which is odd, because if she did take a big donation, say $50,000 or $100,000, she wouldn’t necessarily be breaking the law, she’d just be using what the other campaigns call a loophole.
You could be forgiven for not knowing that the Ontario Liberal Party is holding a leadership race. The former governing party was reduced from 55 to seven seats in the last election and now they have just six members sitting in the legislature.
Mitzie Hunter. Tyler Kula/Postmedia Network
Still, with the PCs having difficulty finding their footing in government and the New Democrats unable to capitalize on the Ford government’s failures, whoever wins the Liberal leadership could have a good shot at winning the next election.
So how this race is run matters.
Changes to Ontario’s election laws made in 2016 restrict candidates formally seeking the leadership of a party to the same rules as someone running to be an MPP. They can’t accept corporate or union donations and individual donations are restricted to $1,600 in a calendar year.
Prior to 2016, a candidate could take a $100,000 donation and never have to say where it came from, let alone admit they had it.
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Yet, despite the 2016 changes, a loophole remains in place that could see a leadership candidate take a big money donation from a wealthy individual, a corporation or a union.
“Prior to the date of the official call for a leadership contest, the financial activity of a person exploring the feasibility of becoming a leadership contestant is not regulated,” reads the guidebook for candidates and their financial officers published by Elections Ontario.
So are any of the current five leadership candidates using this loophole that allows them to take what some describe as “grey money?”
I put questions to all five of the campaigns and four of the five were definitive, the other was evasive.
“There were — and will be — no pledges or contributions exceeding the annual contribution limit set by Elections Ontario,” said Kate Graham, the most recent candidate to declare her intention to seek the leadership this past weekend.
Liberal leadership contender Michael Coteau (holding microphone) Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
Michael Coteau, former minister for both tourism and sport, said that his campaign didn’t raise any money prior to declaring and is respecting the $1,600 limit.
Same with leadership candidate Steven Del Duca, a former transportation minister.
“Under no circumstances have we, or will we, accept a donation which exceeds $1,600,” said the Del Duca campaign.
Alvin Tedjo — the Oakville civil servant turned leadership candidate — says the same.
All four of these campaigns say that they paid their $60,000 initial entry fee to the party from grassroots donations. The Hunter campaign simply says they used a bank draft.
“The campaign will comply with all OLP and EO regulations and neither require disclosure of such information,” the Hunter campaign said when asked how much money they raised prior to declaring and how many donations were above $1,600.
Liberal leadership hopeful Steven Del Duca (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)
Asked if Hunter believed the loophole needed to be closed and the answer was simply that they would comply with all Elections Ontario regulations for this current race. Every other campaign called for the loophole to be closed.
If Hunter did take a big money donation, then she hasn’t broken the law or even come close, but she does open herself up to questions.
If one or two big donors are fronting her campaign, then who are they and what will she owe them in the future? This is about to become the first major issue in the sleepy Liberal leadership.
Mitzie Hunter needs to answer some questions.
LILLEY: Ontario needs to clean up its political fundraising rules
Brian Lilley
October 6, 2019
October 6, 2019 8:55 PM EDT
Mitzie Hunter. Tyler Kula/Postmedia Network
Here’s a couple of questions for you. Do we want big money out of our politics? Do we want transparency in who funds our elected leaders?
For most people, the answer would be yes to both questions. For those that bristle at the idea that we should limit donation amounts, most would still say that donations should be reported.
Yet, in the current Ontario Liberal leadership race we have one candidate that is running without being transparent about her donors and is potentially running thanks to big anonymous donors.
I’m speaking about Mitzie Hunter who somehow was able to pay her $60,000 entry fee to the party via a bank draft despite only reporting a little over $10,000 in donations.
That’s the figure from Elections Ontario. The official body for overseeing leadership races and fundraising reports that Hunter registered as a candidate on Aug. 20.
Under Elections Ontario rules, candidates are required to report any donation over $100 within 10 business days of taking in the funds. Within two business days of the donations being reported, Elections Ontario updates the donation on their website.
Liberal leadership hopeful Steven Del Duca (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)
The latest figures show Hunter having raised just $10,654.
That compares to $156,526 for Steven Del Duca, $85,767 for Michael Coteau, $61,321 for Alvin Tedjo and $46,215 for Kate Graham.
Graham has told me that she paid her entrance fee to the party with post-dated cheques that allow her to keep fundraising while paying the entrance fee in stages.
So how can Hunter pay a $60,000 fee while only raising $10,654?
Liberal leadership contender Michael Coteau (holding microphone) Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
She’s likely using a loophole in the fundraising rules.
When the Wynne Liberals brought in changes to the fundraising rules a couple of years ago, they left in place a loophole that allows people to raise money from any source, via any means, before they officially declare.
“Prior to the date of the official call for a leadership contest, the financial activity of a person exploring the feasibility of becoming a leadership contestant is not regulated,” reads the guidebook for candidates and their financial officers published by Elections Ontario.
When I asked all five Ontario Liberal leadership contenders about this issue back in early September, every campaign but Hunter’s said they would seek to close the loophole. Hunter declined to answer that beyond saying she would follow the law. That’s still her answer today.
Her campaign was also the only one that refused to say if they had taken donations above the $1,600 limit. If she took big money donations ahead of declaring then she wouldn’t have to disclose those donations.
All other campaigns said they never took a single donation above that limit.
I’m not picking on Hunter here, I’m asking for the rules to be clarified.
When I published my last column on this I was shocked that neither the governing PCs nor the opposition NDP had anything to say about this issue. They should be calling for this loophole to be closed.
But that might not be in their best interests.
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According to sources, the loophole was widely used in the last PC leadership race, something that likely escaped notice from most of us because we were too busy dealing with the insanity that the race was after former PC leader Patrick Brown was chased out.
Perhaps it was used in the last NDP leadership race a decade ago or those that want to replace Horwath are hoping to use it.
We deserve to know who funded Ford or Horwath. We deserve to know if they owe anyone favours. And we deserve to know who is funding Hunter.
Bottom line is that if we want to have strict regulations on fundraising for our political leaders, then we need to close loopholes like this that would allow big donors — be they individuals, corporations or unions — from trying to buy influence.
Otherwise, we make a mockery of the rules.