Earlier this week, Democracy in Kingston — a grassroots citizen-led organization dedicated to strengthening democracy in the city of Kingston — called on candidates in this year’s municipal election to release the names of their financial donors ahead of next Monday’s election day. “Democracy in Kingston believes that electors need to know that candidates will be accountable to all the voters, not just those who have no problem writing big cheques,” the organization said in a press release signed by 13 local residents, including several former City councillors.
By law, municipal candidates are required to file a list of donors who contribute more than $100 to their campaign. These lists are to be finalized once the election period is over. For the 2022 municipal campaign, candidates have until March 31, 2023 to file their initial financial statements with the City. While this process establishes official lists of campaign contributions, it does not give voters a sense when they go to cast their ballot on election day of who is supporting the various candidates, Democracy in Kingston and pro-transparency consituents argue.
In past campaigns, some candidates have chosen to release the names of their donors ahead of time, providing updated lists of contributions throughout the election period. “I was glad to have my donations made public,” said food security activist Elaine Power of her contributions to campaigns, who was quoted in Democracy in Kingston’s media release. “That’s because we should know before we vote which candidates will work in the best interests of everyone. Not just realtors, developers, and other special interests.”
In their press release, Democracy in Kingston noted several local candidates who have committed to sharing their donor lists ahead of next Monday’s election: current Councillors Lisa Osanic (Collins-Bayridge) and Jeff McLaren (Meadowbrook-Strathcona), as well as new candidates Annette Burfoot (Williamsville), Paul Chaves (Loyalist-Cataraqui), and Gregory Ridge (King’s Town).
Of the candidates included in the organization’s release, Osanic, McLaren, Burfoot and Ridge have added donor lists to their website, while Chaves noted a single $200 donation on his campaign Facebook page.
“I think the initiative is important because it is another level of information that voters can review, allowing them to make a more informed decision about who they vote for,” Ridge said in a statement to Kingstonist. “Transparency is important to the democratic process, and increasing that transparency can empower voters.”
Since the group issued its call to action, a number of additional candidates have begun to publicize their donor lists. Portsmouth District Candidate Oren Nimelman shared a list of his contributors to the r/KingstonOntario subreddit. In a statement posted online, Nimelman said, “The call for candidates to make their normal disclosures during the race was spurred by the fact that there was a pattern during the 2018 race where several developer-landlords systematically donated to candidates whom they clearly thought would act in their best financial interests,” referring to information shared by Democracy in Kingston, which shows specific donors and their contributions.
Other candidates who have publicly shared their donor lists include Vincent Cinanni (Williamsville), Ian Clark (Williamsville ), Tom Gingrich (Kingscourt-Rideau), Conny Glenn (Sydenham), Michael Judd (Kingscourt-Rideau), Rami Maassarani (Sydenham), Colleen Murphy (Portsmouth), Brandon Tozzo (Kingscourt-Rideau) and Zachary Typhair (Portsmouth).
It should be noted that of the four candidates for mayor of Kingston, Tina Fraser is the only one to respond publicly to Democracy in Kingston’s release. On her website, Fraser states, “I have zero donors and did not ask for any donations (financial or in-kind) as I am not buying anyone’s vote.”
Any candidates who have disclosed their donor/contribution lists publicly who are not included in this article can contact Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford via email directing to where that information can be found, and this article will be updated to include those candidates.