Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith
Credits: PERRY MAH/QMI AGENCY
EDMONTON -- Opposition leaders want the truth about a reported $430,000 donation made to the Progressive Conservative party's spring election campaign.
Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith and NDP Leader Brian Mason both sent letters to Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim, asking about billionaire Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz's role in the donation.
Watchdog group Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the optics on the donations are "terrible" and point to a need for immediate transparency for campaign donations.
Whether Katz broke the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, which says individuals can't donate money that does not belong to them, or just jumped through a convenient - and legal - loophole, the real solution is not restrictions on donations, but rather pre-election disclosure of all donors, said CTF's Scott Hennig.
Closing donations a week before election day and then requiring all donations be listed online in the days prior to the election is the only way to make campaign donation disclosures mean something, Hennig said.
"If voters saw (Katz group names) on the donor list, that may have influenced their vote," Hennig said, pointing out that under current Alberta law, voters have to wait until Oct. 25 to find out if an official they voted for accepted donations the voter would find unacceptable.
Hennig cites the example of a council candidate who, after the election, filed that he had accepted a donation from KKK Grand Wizard David Duke in 2007. Had that donation been posted, it could have changed voters' opinions of the candidate, Hennig said.
It's not just the $100 million in provincial funding sought to create Katz's dream "iconic" arena that raises ethics concerns, Hennig said.
"(Katz) has got business dealings before the province, proposals before the province, requests before the province," Hennig said, citing an apparent request for a deal with the province related to slot machines for Katz' proposed arena-related casino, as well as a related approval of a community revitalization levy.
"There are multiple requests for the province to approve, grant or give him approvals that would greatly benefit the bottom line of his business," Hennig said.
Smith said it appears Katz made the donation within a few days of the spring provincial election campaign.
"Albertans must have confidence in the integrity of our political system. They must know that the rules are in place for everybody to follow and that the system cannot be gamed to gain political influence," Smith said.
Elections Alberta said Katz, his employees and family would have been within the law to pool their resources to give the Tory party $430,000.
Premier Alison Redford defended her party's hounour, bristling at the words "apparent" and "alleged."
She said that throughout her leadership candidacy, her time as premier and during the spring election "our position has not changed."
"It is a public conversation. We have been consistent, and there is no reason to suggest a connection between the two, particularly when our position does not support the request from the person who made the contribution," she said.
Liberal leader Raj Sherman said the prevalence of large campaign donations, off-shore leadership contributions, patronage appointments and untendered, private government contracts in Alberta is cause for concern.
"One may expect to see this type of behaviour in the developing world or under a corrupt authoritarian regime," he said.