As questions continue to swirl around a donation by billionaire Daryl Katz to the Alberta Tories during the last provincial election, opposition parties are calling for a change to the province’s election financing rules.
Elections Alberta records released last week show that Edmonton Oilers owner Katz, his companies, employees, and family members contributed between $300,000 and $430,000 of the total $1.5 million raised for the Alberta Tories during the April election campaign.
The maximum allowable donation by a single party under Elections Alberta rules is $30,000. But according to a source cited by the Globe & Mail, Katz gave the party a single cheque for $430,000, a donation that was divided into smaller amounts under other names.
The large donation has sparked controversy because Katz made the contribution while lobbying the province for $100 million to build a new arena in downtown Edmonton.
He also sits on the board of the Alberta Investment Management Corp, which manages about $70 billion of the provincial government’s investments and endowments, and has dealings with the government through his pharmaceutical companies.
Alberta’s reputation has been damaged.
— Wildrose leader Danielle Smith
The Wildrose Party challenged the Progressive Conservatives during question period on Monday to change its campaign financing legislation in light of the obvious conflict of interest.
“Let me connect some dots,” Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said.
“Given that a quarter of the government’s election donations are said to be from a single source, and given that source wants $100 million from the government for a hockey arena, and he sits on the board of a Crown corporation that invests $70 billion of assets owned by Albertans, doesn’t anyone in this government have a problem with that?”
“Alberta’s reputation has been damaged,” Smith added, calling the existing laws “deeply flawed.”
NDP leader Brian Mason also called for changes to election financing rules, including reducing the individual contribution limit to $10,000 and prohibiting corporate and union donations.
“This is just further evidence that our elections law needs a complete overhaul,” Mason said in a press release. “To have a $30,000 maximum and then see it flouted in this ridiculous way is just an insult to Albertans.”
We Follow Election Rules: Redford
Liberal leader Raj Sherman called on Premier Alison Redford to restore public faith in the elections process by refusing large single donations, and to close “loopholes” in elections finance laws.
Redford has said she was not aware of the donations and that the PCs have always followed election rules. She said her party will fully cooperate if Elections Alberta chooses to investigate, and will table some previously promised changes to elections rules in the coming weeks.
Finance Minister Doug Horner pointed to the government’s repeated refusal to directly fund the Edmonton arena, as well as its rejection of a casino licence application from Katz, as proof that the PCs are acting above board.
Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer has launched an investigation into the donations, and if wrongdoing is found, the PCs will have to return the money and Katz will be fined.
Alberta has come under scrutiny in recent years for having some of the most lax election finance rules in the country.
In 2009 former Elections Alberta chief electoral officer Lorne Gibson was abruptly fired after releasing damning reports on Alberta’s electoral process, which included more than 100 recommendations on changes to the system—including improved financial disclosure policies.
Gibson later sued the province for wrongful dismissal.
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