Toronto elections campaigning for transparent funding

The City of Toronto is hoping to offer a new online resourcethat will allow full public disclosure into campaign contributionsreceived by candidates in the upcoming November election.

If the necessary bylaws are passed, the public will be able toview the full financial statements filed by electoral candidates,said Greg Essensa, director of elections and registry services,City of Toronto.

Among the recommendations put forward recently by the TorontoElection Finance Review Task Force was that city staff considerbuilding and implementing an electronic financial filing system(EFFS), said Essensa.

He said the City Clerk’s Office oversaw the actual developmentin partnership with their information and technology division. “Weconsulted with major stakeholders, including academics, publicaccountants, the auditor general’s office, as well as other levelsof government – both provincial and federal – to provide input intothe application development.”

Essensa said there are two major components to the system, thefirst being designed specifically to ease the filing procedure forcandidates. “It’s very similar to an e-tax filing application,” hesaid. “[Candidates] can simply input their information, download itand print it.”

Essensa added that will also have the ability to trackcontributions and to manage all of their user administrationrights.

The second component of the system is the public disclosurepiece, which the City hopes will be accessible through its Web all the financial statements have been entered, thatinformation is available on the Web and any interested party cansearch the site on multiple criteria.

“If they’re looking to view all of the contributions from aparticular individual to one candidate…they have that capabilityto do so.”

The application was developed internally with J2EE and uses anOracle database, according to Stephen Wong, director of informationand application services with the City’s information and technologydivision.

Wong noted that e-filing would not be mandatory for candidatesand the paper-based method will still be available. The aim ofonline filing is to simplify the process. “In addition to sharingthe information, it obviously provides a time-saving benefit,” saidWong.

“For the public, it’s really about transparency. They’ll be ableto view this information any time they choose, whereas currentlythe process requires them to come to City Hall to the city clerk’soffice and request to see the paper copy.”

Essensa said they have requested feedback from the public andthe media on the public disclosure piece of the system, as it won’tbe live until 2007.

“If there are search criteria that we have not captured, orwould like additional information to be searched upon, we’re takingthat information under advisement and we will make amendments tothe application to make it as user-friendly as possible.”

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