Councillor Municipal Elections Limits

2014 Municipal Election Spending Limits (Councillor)

 The City of Toronto has begun to upload all campaign financing for all candidates in the 2014 municipal election.  I have collected as much data as possible to begin to understand a few important aspects of winning a campaign.   Please note that there are currently dozens of campaigns with extensions that will need to be analyzed.  This post is based on information collected up until publication.

I entered the realm of municipal politics when I ran for Ward 3 councillor in the 2014 election.  This is important because as a first time candidate and a believer that any resident has the right to run to represent my ward, the process was fair.  As I met other candidates I started to realistically understand that the incumbent advantage has played a huge factor in many councillors retaining their seats.  This is evident as 37 of 38 councillors who sought re-election won their seats.  When I started to compile all the financial data of all candidates who ran for council I was shocked by some of the contribution totals I saw.  

 Interestingly, the open data provided by the city has lead to several important questions:

  1. Who collected the most amount of contributions?
  2. What was the spending limit for that ward?
  3. Are there serious concerns with the entire municipal campaign financing?

QUESTION 1: Who collected the most amount of contributions?


The candidate that raised the most amount of contributions in the 2014 municipal election was indeed Ward 40 Councillor - Norm Kelly.

During the campaign, candidate Norm Kelly kept his Ward 40 council seat by collecting a whopping $146,311.30 in total campaign income.  Yes you read that right, $146K for a municipal campaign by an incumbent.

QUESTION 2: What is Ward 40's spending limit?

The spending limit for candidates running for councillor in Ward 40 was only a mere $35,821.

As you take a moment to look at the contributions and compare it to the spending limit - you are not confused, there is a difference of $110,490.30.  Why hasn't there been articles written on the stark difference between limit and contributions - because it is within the rules.

Question 3: Are there serious concerns with Toronto municipal election financing... yes.

I must preface that this is not a personal attack on Councillor Norm Kelly.  If any other candidate were to raise the most amount of contributions, that individual would have been in this spotlight.  Analyzing the data can be verified on the CITY OF TORONTO WEBSITE and I fully expect all interested residents to validate for themselves.  I wrote this post because as I analyzed the data, I was shocked and dismayed on the staggering difference between my view of the election and those who understand the 'rules'.  I wondered if campaign elections can actually be won without money, influence & power.

The most significant aspect everyone must understand: NOT ALL EXPENSES ARE PUT AGAINST SPENDING LIMIT.   Campaigns raise more than the spending limit because there are expenses legally allowed to be incurred that are seen outside of the spending limit.  Some of the most significant expenses revolve around 'fundraising' and is a serious concern of optics to residents of Toronto.  Currently there are 46 campaigns that exceeded the spending limit but were compliant based on the laws governing spending limits & expenses.

Data analysis of the Ward 40 councillor campaign can only be understood by first taking a moment to know Ward 40 - Scarborough Agincourt.  Click each of the photos below to be directed to the ward profile,  the 2011 household survey or the 2011 census.

BLUE: Ward 40

BLUE: Ward 40

Who ran for Ward 40 Councillor (2014):

There were only three candidates who ran for council in Ward 40.  In Toronto the average for candidates in a council race was 8.1 (358 for 44 seats), this riding  is then significantly lower. 


Were either candidates previous opponents to Norm Kelly in the 2010 election?  NO

A good article about the race, including information on Anthony & Josh can be found: TORONTO STAR ARTICLE.

A significant aspect of the race is when did each candidate begin their campaigns?  Anthony Internicola entered  on July 15, 2014,  several months after Norm Kelly entered.  Josh Borenstein entered on the last eligible day for candidates to run for councillor.  I will explain later why this data is significant to the ward race.

I extracted all of Ward 40's information from a financial spreadsheet I created for ALL council candidates.  The information below was compiled from open data within the City of Toronto website.  It also includes calculations and metrics I added for sorting and analyzing purposes.

The data collection allowed me to extrapolate data across all 44 wards; from incumbents, to number of candidates in a ward.  It includes the number of votes each candidate received and the percentage of the total votes in that ward. 

What is the most significant data listed above: financial contributions and expenses. 

As shown, Josh Borenstein has not put in any paperwork by the mandated date of March 27, 2015 and has gone into DEFAULT and would not be able to run in the next election.  There are a series of valid options why a candidate may not have completed paperwork.  I will not guess a reason and the calculations or totals will not be able to included in this analysis.  Anthony Internicola didn't collect any contributions and incurred $1126.30 of expenses in the hope to win the council seat.  Both totals unfortunately would not given many candidates a valid opportunity to win a seat.

Despite the lack of financial contributions or expenses, both Josh & Anthony received votes that put them in the top 40% of candidates for votes.  In context, both candidates collected 248 & 322 more votes than my campaign and ranking 20-30 spots higher.  This finding also mirrors other council races where the number of candidates were minimal; not all voters wanted an incumbent to win.

Meanwhile Norm Kelly collected a very impressive 16,052 votes for councillor which accounted for 85.97% of votes cast in Ward 40.  This vote total was the seventh highest  in all of Toronto for council and ranked second (only to Josh Matlow) of highest percentage of votes in a ward. 

Given the significant votes received by Norm Kelly and the amount of contributions accepted, there must have been some catalyst from the previous election to warrant such a large amount? 

2010 Ward 40 Council Campaign Information

I took a look at the previous election in Ward 40 in an attempt to locate a reason why an incumbent elected six consecutive times would need to raise such funds.  Below are the financial summaries and the poll by poll vote counts for Norm's ward.

In 2010 Norm Kelly had three other candidates running for his seat.  Their combined campaign contributions were approximately 25% of his contributions.  Norm Kelly was able to collect over $80,000 in contributions and overshadow his opponents by $60,000.  Interesting.

Where did Norm Kelly collect and spend his campaign contributions and expenses in 2014?

Norm Kelly must have been in a dog-fight for his ward.  There must have been another candidate to possibly knock off the Deputy Mayor to bring this amount of donations to his campaign?  As I looked at the totals of his opponents, as I looked at the dates of entering the race and also fundraisers, I concluded this was not the case.

Norm Kelly Fundraiser - May 14, 2014

On May 14, 2014 Norm Kelly had a fundraiser for his campaign at Casa Loma ( A very good Toronto landmark to throw a fundraiser, although not in his ward).  Norm's campaign had been running for several months uncontested but threw a large fundraiser to gather as much contributions as possible in the expectation of competition.


The event could have been an open invitation to attend without the need to purchase a ticket.  This would allow any contribution to be separated from the event or the contributions where simply not listed correctly on the financial report.  Without a list corresponding to the event it is not possible to connect the fundraising event to any contributions.  It would be assumed that there were contributions during the fundraiser given its costs.  If the event did not garner contributions, was it to promote awareness of a candidate?  This by definition would not be a fundraiser.

Information provided to candidates by the City of Toronto (click image to view on CoT website).

This brings up an issue with fundraising, the purpose of the fundraiser is to raise funds for the candidate's campaign.  By incurring fundraising costs listed below that total to $73,284.93, how can this event like many others thrown across Toronto be considered within the "spirit" of the law?  A fundraising coordinator was a great expense but also equivalent to 41% of the spending limit.  

As stated earlier, it is important to understand that no other candidates had entered the race by the time of this fundraiser.  If by chance Norm Kelly had won his seat by being acclaimed, the fundraiser and all contributions would still be able receive the CITY OF TORONTO REBATE PROGRAM.  Any contributor to election campaigns (mayor or councillor) are entitled to a rebate percentage of their contribution.  The number of campaigns outside of the spending limit (46 of the 210 currently available) is approximately 22%.  These candidates use these extra contributions to pay for fundraisers and election day parties that seem in excess of most other candidates.  The city of Toronto is paying any contributor (even outside of Toronto) money back to attend a fundraiser or an election day party.  


Voting day / Appreciation notices are often used to spend excess funds held by a campaign.  It is a good way to say thank you to the volunteers that could have been involved in the almost year long campaign.  If the candidate has not contributed any funds, they are not entitled to any surplus; the surplus is given to the City of Toronto.  

Norm Kelly's financial statement of his voting day/ appreciation notices is listed as $18,007.39.  This total is equivalent to  50.27% of the spending limit of a council campaign for Ward 40.  It is equal to 57.35% of all the expenses subject of the spending limit.  I am shocked that a voting day party cost more than total campaign expenses listed by over 116 campaigns.  The $18,000 is more than the campaign expenses of three candidates who won their seat (Ford, Holyday, Moeser).  

At the end of the campaign, Norm Kelly's financial statements show that it had a massive surplus of funds still available.  His campaign wrote a check to the City of Toronto for $17,833.03.  This total will be held in trust in case any expenses are incurred after the election in retrospect to a recount or audits.  Seen below is the information provided to candidates about surplus or deficit while running a campaign.


I am aware that little will change in regards to election spending.  It would be naive to believe any resident has a chance to win an election and represent their ward.  Data is dangerous information when available so openly and its analysis shows problems likely not to be solved.  Norm Kelly was the king of Toronto (as of April 2015) in regards to fundraising, contributions accepted and expenses made.  The financial figures only further answer the truth that incumbents have an almost insurmountable advantage.  I asked before, the answer seems more evident now.

I wonder if campaign elections can actually be won without money, influence & power?

Thank you for reading my analysis of Norm Kelly's contributions and expenses.  I am currently working on other analysis of the municipal election results (including the concept of "what does your vote cost?").  Please check back for other posts regarding politics in Toronto.

Peter Fenech

Posted on April 13, 2015 and filed under Election 2014.