This research project began in April 2019, soon after the Financial Statements were released by Councillors following the 2018 Ottawa Municipal Election. These were made available to the public on the City of Ottawa website. These statements, sworn to be accurate by each candidate who stood for election, disclose names, home addresses, the date of the contribution and total contributions of all individuals who contributed $100 or more to the campaign. Each individual is legally bound to contribute no more than $1,200 to any municipal candidate, and no more than $5,000 to all candidates in a municipal election in Ontario.
What is a development industry contribution?
A development industry contribution, also referred to as a developer-connected donation, is a contribution determined very likely to be made by an individual who is or is the spouse/family member of an executive, owner, representative, manager, senior staff member, or other major stakeholder in the real estate development, property management, and infrastructure industries, and any contractors, consultants, legal or financial services related to commercial and residential construction.
Data sources and research methods
The list of contributors that formed the starting point of this research was found in lists provided in Schedule 1 of the Financial Statement for each candidate in the 2018 Ottawa Municipal election, as well as the 2019 By-election in Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward.
Each contributor was researched thoroughly in an attempt to determine whether they represented a development industry interest, using the searchable database available at ottwatch.ca to cross-reference with the statements published on the City of Ottawa website. This research was supplemented with external information found in publicly available online resources: company websites, planning applications made to the city, databases such as the Tarion Builder registry, newspaper articles, publicly accessible lobbying records, and social media pages such as LinkedIn.
Further, address information disclosed for each contributor was compared in order to determine familial connections between donors and stakeholders within the development industry. These connections were further established using online publications such as articles, published obituaries or photo spreads from the local circuit of charity galas. On several occasions, maximum contributions were submitted under multiple names within the same household or family.
Our publicly-accessible database compares the sums of development industry contributions aggregated for each candidate to the total funds raised by that campaign to determine the percentage of development industry contributions. All sums claimed to be contributed by the candidate or their spouse have been omitted from fundraising totals, as well any costs that account for campaign supplies that were carried forward from a previous municipal campaign. These totals are also listed in Schedule 1 of the Financial Statement. They represent costs or sums that are not subject to the individual contribution limits or disclosure rules.
The purpose of this database is to provide residents with a tool to better understand the role the development industry plays in financing election campaigns of many public officials. It attempts to capture, as comprehensively and accurately as possible, all those campaign contributors who have a financial stake in the decisions made regarding the built environment of the City of Ottawa. However, there are limits to what can be accurately determined or implied. In many cases, it was not possible to make a strong connection between a contributor and a development industry interest that they may have a stake in. For this reason, the list is surely incomplete and omits some additional contributors to municipal campaigns who could fit the defined criteria. It is expected that the database will continue to be grown and refined as more information is found or made available.