Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Charted: leading Toronto mayoral candidates received nearly $500K from 905-area contributors

By: Metro Canada Published on Wed Apr 01 2015

In 2013, social geographer Trevor McKenzie-Smith looked at the campaign contributions to winning candidate Rob Ford in Toronto’s 2010 election and found something staggering: about a third of the monetary contributions to Ford’s campaign came from outside Toronto. All told, Ford raised over $623,000 from people with addresses outside Toronto — nearly all of them from 905 municipalities.

I’ve been interested in following up on this, because the stat had some troubling long-term implications. Why were so many people who likely don’t pay any Toronto taxes or use most city services so compelled to contribute? What's in it for them?

I also wondered if the out-of-Toronto donations in the 2010 election might have been a one-time phenomenon. Maybe everyone was just so captivated by Ford and his “stop the gravy train” stuff that they temporarily took leave of their senses and just started throwing money at him. Four years later — and with a lot of voters holding a dramatically different view on Ford — I was left wondering: would we see the same kind of 905 money flowing to Toronto mayoral candidates in 2014?

People from the 905 — defined for our purposes as those with postal codes that start with “L” — contributed a combined $496,130 to the five most prominent Toronto mayoral candidates: John Tory, Olivia Chow, Doug Ford, Rob Ford and David Soknacki. (The latter two withdrew before election day; I’d have included Karen Stintz but she’s been granted an extension to file her campaign finances.)

Most of this went to eventual winner John Tory, with 905ers donating $335,561 to Tory’s total of about $2.8-million. People from the 905 gave Rob Ford and Doug Ford $26,806 and $51,870, respectively, for a combined total $78,676 of 905er money going to Ford Nation candidates — a significant drop from the $623,000 they receivedin 2010. But that’s mostly because the Ford name drew significantly less contribution money in 2014 than it did four years earlier.

Here’s a chart showing the 2014 numbers.

Olivia Chow’s fundraising prowess is notable too. Though Tory beat her total, she had far more individual contributions, with 5,709 contributions compared to Tory’s 2,602. A quick scan of her contributions indicates Chow had more repeat contributors, generally making smaller donations.

For another view, here’s a chart showing percentages of campaign contributions by geographic source.

As expected, by percentage the Fords drew the most support from the 905, with about 10 per cent of Rob Ford’s campaign contributions and 18 per cent of Doug Ford’s campaign contributions coming from the 905. Tory’s 905 percentage was 12 per cent, while Soknacki drew just under 8 per cent.

Chow drew very little 905 support, with just under 5 per cent, though this was somewhat offset by her ability to draw donations from outside the GTA — she raised just over $60,000 from areas outside the GTA, with a lot of support coming from the “K” postal code area in and around Ottawa.

All told, residents from outside Toronto seemed to have less monetary influence on Toronto’s 2014 election than they had four years earlier, but there’s still reason to wonder if this kind of outside influence in municipal politics is entirely healthy — especially considering that all these donors from outside Toronto are now eligible for rebate cheques issued by the City of Toronto.

This post was originally published at on 2015-04-01T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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