More than half of Liberal donations come from corporations

More than half of Liberal donations come from corporations

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As the Liberal government prepares legislation to phase out corporate and union donations in Ontario, it's their own party that will face the brunt of the impact.

An analysis of 12 years of political donation data from Elections Ontario shows the Liberals are the only party at Queen's Park to get more than half of their donations from corporations.

The results shed light not only on why the Liberals waited this long to make changes, but also why Premier Kathleen Wynne has been emphasizing the importance of a transition period.

The data comes from the annual reports published by Elections Ontario, which contain appendices that break down political contributions into three categories: individuals, corporations and trade unions.

From 2002 to 2014, the Liberals received 51 per cent of their donations from corporations, 43 per cent from individual donors, and 6 per cent from unions.

In comparison, the PCs received 46 per cent of donations from corporations, 54 per cent from individuals, and practically nothing from unions.

The NDP, meanwhile, received nearly all of their donations from individual donors: 79 per cent came from individuals, while 16 per cent came from unions and just 5 per cent from corporations.

The data covers all contribution categories: annual financial statements by parties, annual financial statements by constituency associations and all donations made to the parties during byelection periods and general elections.

However, it only contains a small amount of data from 2014, as the rest of it won't be published until the next Elections Ontario annual report, expected to come out in a few weeks. (See the bottom of this post for more information on what's included in the data.)

Despite their strong advantage in terms of percentages, the NDP still raised less in aggregate total of individual donations ($32.8 million) during this time period, compared to the Liberals ($46.6 million) and PCs ($59.6 million).

Other notable trends in the data include:

  • The PCs, unsurprisingly, have received almost no support from unions in the past decade (though that may be changing under Patrick Brown, as unions were noticeably big sponsors of March's annual general meeting).
  • Though all parties have big bumps during election years, the PCs have had the most dramatic swings: skyrocketing donations during the campaign, then a steep drop-off following the loss.
  • The NDP had nearly no corporate support for much of this time period, but that changed in 2011, when the party started reporting much bigger contributions each year from corporations.
  • As one might expect, corporate donations to the Liberals were small in 2002, then took off after they formed government in 2003.
  • Donations to the Liberals from trade unions picked up significantly, starting in 2010.

Combining all of the annual statements (including elections) for each party, here is how the donation streams have evolved over time:

With the debate on donations sure to continue at the legislature for the foreseeable future, QP Briefing will be digging deeper into this data for more stories in the days and weeks to come.

Suggestions and feedback welcome at

What's in the data:

The general elections of 2003, 2007 and 2011 are included, but not the 2014 general election. It includes donations from two byelections held in February 2014, but not the 2014 annual statements from parties.

EO's website has various reports on donation data from the past two years, including real-time disclosure of donations, but there is no breakdown between individual/corporate/union donations. For that, you need to go to the annual reports.

QP Briefing asked EO if a breakdown of the 2014 general election and annual financial statements could be provided before the annual report comes out, but was told: no.

To see the source for all data used in this post, go to the appendices of the Elections Ontario annual reports, found here.

Brian Platt

Platt comes to QP Briefing after working as a reporter for the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Free Press and the Vancouver bureau of The Canadian Press, the national news agency. He graduated with a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University after getting a history degree in 2011 from the University of British Columbia.

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