Cue the outrage over forbidden donations in Alberta politics. Not.

Even the evidence the Tories are kicking government funds back to campaigns fails to stir a rise

by Colby Cosh

Cue the outrage. Not.

Chris Young/CP

Over the past four months, many Albertans have taken their first-ever stroll through the province’s election law. Consider the list of entities that are forbidden from contributing to partisan causes—provincial parties, riding associations or candidates. It starts out quite commonsensically. Roman numeral one, corporations owned by the province. Number two, municipalities. Number three, Metis settlements; four, school boards; five, public post-secondary institutions.

In recent months, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives have been caught accepting donations from all five of these types of “prohibited corporations.”

Calgary Lab Services, a subsidiary of the province’s health super-board that recently took over cancer testing from Calgary’s Tom Baker Centre, gave $4,700 to the PC party between 2004 and 2010. The chief operating officer of the company, Chris Mazurkewich, admitted that “this shouldn’t have happened.”

Several northern municipalities were found to have supplied funds to various candidates, most notably Transport Minister Ray Danyluk, who over a period of years invited dozens of town and county councils to contribute to his annual “Cormorant Classic” golf tournaments. Danyluk’s staff solicited donations from a Lac La Biche branch of the Alberta Treasury Branches, the province’s public quasi-bank. The ATB refused, but the Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement and Portage College in Cold Lake, among others, did not. Alberta’s chief electoral officer is investigating Danyluk’s riding association and at least nine others—exactly how many, however, it cannot disclose, because of confidentiality provisions in the law.

The Medicine Hat Catholic School Board admitted to underwriting improper purchases of tickets to a $200 “premier’s dinner” held in the city on Oct. 20 by Alison Redford. Superintendent David Leahy said that spending money on chicken dinners for politicians was a “traditional” practice of the board and pleaded “ignorance of the law.” When originally passed in 1984, the election finance law only included provincial enterprises, but school boards and other bodies were added in 2004.

The University of Lethbridge, hit with a freedom of information request by the Wildrose party, owned up to $15,015 in contributions between March 2004 and October 2005 to premier’s dinners, meet the minister dinners, PC policy events and candidate golf fundraisers. The PC party didn’t bill the university directly, but sent receipts to individual executives who then expensed them. The school issued a statement saying that it learned of the 2004 changes to Alberta election law only in 2005, and immediately introduced a policy outlawing staff reimbursements for partisan activity.

The CBC broke the Cormorant Classic story in the fall, and since then the opposition Wildrose and Liberal parties have kept up a tattoo of press releases about fundraising outrages in the Alberta hinterland. Often the reporting is no harder than fishing around in the minutes of municipalities and public enterprises using Google. The Liberals uncovered a particularly shocking case in late January, discovering that the Persons with Developmental Disabilities Board for central Alberta had agreed to pay to attend a premier’s dinner held by Ed Stelmach in 2005. “Board members will purchase their own tickets and will submit an honoraria claim,” the minutes read. A board member, Ed Johnston, said it “would be an excellent opportunity to promote awareness of PDD in some way.”

The Liberals found another candidate for the shamelessness prize in the minutes of the Municipal District of Big Lakes council, which voted for $200 toward “the purchase of a gift for [a] celebration to commemorate the 30th anniversary of service by MLA Ken Kowalski.” Kowalski has been Speaker of the Alberta assembly since 1997, but held the public works and economic development portfolios before that. As the Liberals hastened to point out, he is stepping aside, like many other PC bigwigs, ahead of an independent review of MLA compensation—and while he is still eligible for a “transition allowance” over and above his MLA pension, estimated at $1.19 million.

So, $200 here, $15,000 there . . . the stories tend to be small potatoes individually, and have failed so far to bestir the Alberta electorate into wrath. (The PCs raised a net total of $3 million for fiscal 2010-11.) A Leger Marketing poll released on Jan. 20 found that 34 per cent of Alberta voters were aware of the various allegations; of those, 37 per cent told the pollster that they intend to vote PC anyway, and 32 per cent were already committed to another party. Only seven per cent said they were reconsidering a Conservative voting intention.

The poll showed the PCs in a commanding overall lead, with the support of 53 per cent of decided voters to the Wildrose party’s 16 per cent, the NDP’s 13 per cent, and the Liberals, 11 per cent. Dave Cournoyer, an influential Alberta-politics blogger, spoke for some when he wrote, “I feel like I should be outraged” about the allegations, “but I am not . . . Is this just how municipalities and public institutions do business in a virtual one-party state like Alberta?”

Premier Redford’s poll performance follows a surprise victory over perceived machine candidates, but in fact the machine seems to have been happy to work for Redford. The CBC obtained an email sent during the 2011 leadership race by Ron Boisvert, chief administrative officer for the town of St. Paul, which was later caught having given money to the Cormorant Classic. Boisvert used his town email account to urge employees, councillors, and even local contractors and businessmen that “in order to keep Ray [Danyluk] in a ministry position, either [Doug] Horner or Redford have to get in as premier . . . it is imperative for future funding that Ray remains in a powerful position.” Redford made Danyluk her transport minister; a portfolio with more power over municipalities could hardly be imagined.

Before 2010, the law put the onus on “prohibited corporations” to know the law; solicitations like the ones made to municipalities for Cormorant Classic entries and prizes were still legal at that time, even if the resulting donations weren’t (as Danyluk, municipal affairs minister from 2006 to 2010, would have known). The mystery is how the politicians and officers of prohibited corporations could have been unaware of the simple ethics of kicking government funds back to political campaigns. And the toughened election law is small comfort, given that Elections Alberta is now forbidden from disclosing the details of its investigations into illegal donations—even if it makes a positive finding and levies a penalty.

“We can’t discuss the results of anything we do,” says Elections Alberta spokesman Drew Westwater, citing chapter and verse from the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. The illegal-donation scandal may be small potatoes, but the public has no way of knowing the size of the heap.




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Cue the outrage over forbidden donations in Alberta politics. Not.

  1. Elections Alberta is a Joke!  Consider people like the Cons and the WRP can collect millions of dollars and pay15,000 to opt out of declarations!

    Southern Alberta is alive with municipalities and a great many individuals who stand to make a lot of money exporting water to the US if either the WRP or the Cons get in again!

    Moreover it has been going on for years see http://albertathedetails.blogspot.com/2012/02/alberta-water-power-and-oil-support.html

  2. How much money did McGuinty’s “SuperPac” (the so-called Ontario Working Families Coalition…basically public employee unions) spend in the last Ontario election?   Not much complaining in the Toronto-centric Canadian media about that.

    • You can’t compare public service unions to super packs. The super packs are based on donations of a few wealthy people with unclear agendas whereas public service unions are an organisation of large amounts of more or less average wage people with a clear agenda.

      Secondly, the point about the Toronto centric media is not a fair one here. If ever anything, this article is proof of the contrary. Maclean’s holding the PCs and Election Alberta  accountable is exactly what they should be doing. 

      • I’m not sure about the “average wage people with a clear agenda.” Do you mean that they are unified in purpose? If so, I would tend to disagree.

        Many public sector employees, notably some teachers, did not agree with their union mounting an attack on the Conservatives, yet they could not opt out of supporting it.

    • Isn’t Mr. Cosh writing from Edmonton? 

  3. Even more shocking than illegal donations is the fact that polling stations on election day are staffed with PC members. The last time, one woman, whom I recognized as a PC member, ripped my ballot out of my hand, thus preventing me from placing it in the box myself. With many other people waiting their turn, she quickly gestured to me to get moving. For all I know, she might have peeked at my ballot, and those of other voters and then destroyed all those who weren’t in favour of the PC.

    I never had a chance to see whether she actually put my ballot in the box, or whether she merely pretended to do so by moving her closed hand over the slot of the box.

  4. There is no better proof of the incompetence of Alberta’s one party political system than a historical comparison of the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund (est. 1976)  versus Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (est. 1990).

    Oh look! A European high-tax socialist nation with Proportional Representation has done much better than low tax, first-past-the-post, one party, entrepreneur-first, Alberta! The world is a strange place.

    Ken Kowalski – former speaker of the Alberta legislature, has a ‘transition allowance’ of $1.19 million to ease his way into the private sector.

    Good for you Ken. Welcome to the 1% club.

    Here is your coffee mug Ken, a gift from Allison Redford, who can now afford this on her own dime, thanks to a salary top-up by the conservative party to make up for that pathetic salary and pension proffered by the Alberta taxpayers.

    Hope you like it. It’s a Tim Horton’s special.

    • Yeah.  Norway was so smart it sold most of its oil at $10, instead of leaving it in the ground and selling it at $100.

      Alberta still has oil reserves equivalent or larger than Saudi Arabia.

      Unconventional oil, which is what Alberta has, requires much more investment, infrastructure, and labour, so the oil sands boom requires massive public investments in infrastructure and people alongside the private investment in the oilsands, which makes it difficult to divert oilsands revenue to a savings fund at the moment.  Also, Alberta contributes mightily to equalization…i.e. the oil bounty goes to pay for public services elsewhere in Canada

      If Alberta’s contribution to equalization had been diverted to a saving fund for the last 40 years, the fund would be pretty damn large. 

    • The Conservatives including the Wild Rose Party believe any coin left in the public purse is an administration gross error.  You see this today in Harper’s run at the CPP and Social Service funds.

      Alberta’s heritage trust was funded from a percentage of oil revenues taken.  This batch of conservatives went after it with a vengeance channeling  Heritage Trust through General Revenues and into the resource pockets.  This has been on going through our highest revenue years.

      There is only 15 billion dollar left in the fund now out of over 200 billion that should have been in there!    At 8 billion dollars a provincial Budget that is more than 20 provincial budgets have been paid for out of the Heritage Trust!

      A week ago, Liepert addressed the Petroleum Group in Calgary telling them it will be business as usual after the election.  He speculated there would be a 5 billion dollar surplus in Alberta’s 2014 budget.

      By that time the 15 billion in Heritage Trust will be gone!  A lot more of the provincial pensions will be gone!  Alberta Health Care will be a thing of the past; gone!

      The Klein drop outs that have fallen in with the Wild Rose Party were the authors of this disaster.  The Wild Rose is completely on side with this!

      Danielle, when asked about the Heritage Trust misuse said they would start a new fund “like the Heritage Trust” funded by taxpayers.   There would be no royalty!  Royalty in Alberta is presently zero!

  5. When government investigates itself the outcome is never in doubt. White collar crime costs more than any other crime in Canada and it is the least investigated and prosecuted because those committing the crimes are usually in positions to make sure they aren’t investigated. The Alberta PCs have run up a hige list of violations and not once have they been charged, I wonder why?

    • You will recall early this spring when Ted Morton was scrapping with the RCMP about renewing their contract for another spell.  Morton explained to the public “it is all about the cash!” 

      The Contract with Alberta is written so the RCMP cannot investigate anything in the Alberta Government without the express approval of the Attorney General.  (That was the position Redford held).

      Had the RCMP opted out it would have left Alberta with its own private police force and a new  crime family prevalent in Canada with Ted Morton as the Godfather!

        • I have suggested that to the right people and trust me when I say it is not off the table by any means. There will be an excercism and it’s long overdue.

  6. What is even more troublesome is that overwhelming evidence has shown that physicians in Alberta who advocated for better care for patients were fired or lost hospital privileges under this PC government and even THAT hasn’t affected the popularity of the party.  People in Alberta are no different than the rest of Canada in that they say they want good, accessible healthcare.  Yet, they continue to support a party that has shown disdain for front-line workers in the healthcare system such as physicians and nurses. 
    Perhaps with a more liberal leader…Alison Redford…people feel the government is a new, softer, kinder, more honest, version of itself.  I, however, believe they need some sort of strong opposition in the legislature to keep them on the straight and narrow.

  7. The illegal donations are disappointing, but I think what’s far worse are the election laws the PCs themselves have set up: our PC Party is under investigation for being corrupt and….guess what? Us commoners are not permitted to know what’s going on…..Alison Redford promised transparency and openess: if any subject is deserving of transparency it’s investigations into illegal donations and campaign fraud. I guess Alison’s commitment to transparency only goes so far. 

    • The Wild Rose Funding comes from the Southern Alberta Community including municipalities who have their futures set on an endless cash supply from the bulk Water export to the US.

      This is all illegal.  The LDS church see Redford as the Mormon re awaking and are not shy about pumping coin in that direction.

      Because of this obvious controversy, the WRP will elect to pay their 15,000 dollar penalty as Orman did and sweep it all under the rug.  Elections Alberta knows where not to look!  As I said before, Elections Alberta is a sham!

      • Quite a bit of correspondence with or around Mike Cardinal on the subject of the southern Water positions and the sale of lands in the Rocky Mtns.  Go to
        http://albertathedetails.blogspot.com/ and in the top left corner search “Cardinal” that should return most of it.  Nestle is in the middle of it.

        Quite a bit on Electricity, CCS and a number of other scams using the same search thing.  I have kept pretty good track of them over the years.

  8. “The illegal-donation scandal may be small potatoes, but the public has no way of knowing the size of the heap.”

    I know all I need to.  Too much smoke for there to be no fire.  I’m voting Wildrose!

    • I can understand where you come from Jaystone.  When  organizations you have believed in, supported and even loved betray you on a scale like both the WRP and Conservatives have it leaves you a huge mountain to climb!

      For the sake of your kids and the future of this province, I suggest you try to get your head around it.

  9. This time, last election: Our resource revenues were promised a pie in the sky increases in the “New Royalty Regime”. Our royalty was 16% USD and US exchange was 18%.  They projected huge, impossible royalty increases exactly as they are doing this time! Same old show.

    As it turned out, they changed our take from USD to Can $ in that document, a loss to this 
    province of 18% at the time! The purpose was to reduce royalty and only to reduce royalty.  
    So much for promises from these guys. As Stelmach said in debate on that election, “we are 
    Conservatives. not like these other guys”

    The original deal on royalty was 25% on a paid plant and only 1% while the plant was being 
    paid for.  Under this formula Alberta Taxpayers paid 100%  of these plants.  It was not a big 
    investment by no name oil industry types. It was 100% Alberta Taxpayer coin!

    Since the last election however they have reduced our royalty from 16% (When their stated 
    target was 19% auditor Fred Dunn) to zilch!

    Plant pay offs have nothing to do with their projected robbery.  Conservative idealism however is everything!

    Tar Sands production is 1.6 million barrels (bbl) per day. At 100$ US per bbl is 1,600,000,000 dollars max.  If we took the same royalty at BC or Sask at 20% the province would be getting 32 million dollars per day in royalty!  Much more if it was the original agreement of 25%

    There is a lot of reasons to get rid of both the Alberta Conservatives and the Wild Rose Party!

    In the interest of looking after our industry and jobs I will be supporting the Liberal Party of Alberta.

  10. Ugh, do not get me started with this bloody mess.

    It is troublesome, but what I find even more disturbing is Redford’s blind eye to the whole thing and her surrounding with all these very questionable people.

    • Redford was and is part of these “questionable people”  Her last job was AG (Attorney General). As such it was her job to fence down the RCMP when they were doing their questionable deals such as quote fixing.  Did you choose to notice when quotes are asked for the results are never published? 

      Putting lipstick on a pig isn’t going to change the pork!

  11. I suspect there is more anger out there , with respect to the profligacy of the Alberta Tories, than currently shows up in polls.       They may call themselves Tories, but they act much more like Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals  (ie save the tax increases for after the provincial election, and spend, spend, spend, in the meantime) 

    • There is a lot more anger out there yes but it is not because of spending it is because of the absolute lack of concern for the province and a self endorsement of the conservative ideals.

      We are not collecting the money we should be getting.  The Cons have shorted every program they wanted to dispense with including health care.

      Health care as and example of many has no guidelines for expenses!  Iris Evans traveled extensively including the munch heralded trip to Sweden to check health care standards.  All charged to healthcare!

      The well known clinics in Calgary.  Multi millions spent in upgrades and turned over to private companies for pennies on the dollar of value.  The difference (more probably all) charged to health care.

      There is only one way to stop them and that is get away from this Conservative BS for a couple of terms and get this province on track again.

  12. I saw NatPost article other day and it reminded me how utterly corrupt our politics/msm/business are. Very chummy circle that rarely hold each other to account – can do whatever they want – while consumer is punished. 

    I live in Ontario, had not heard of this scandal until a few minutes ago, but in my prov we’ve just had public unions campaign for a specific government using coerced money. Canadian governments do not care about helping average person or consumer – we are fascist state where business and government work together to further their own interests. Maclean’s photographer Raphael constantly documents corruption and we celebrate it, apparently. 

    Adam Smith ~ People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

    NatPost ~ Aug 2003:

    Members of the Liberal government attending their annual summer caucus retreat last week were treated to an open bar and platters of food during a private party paid for by the Canadian Bankers Association.

    Asked about the ethics of a governing party accepting a private party from bankers, Mr. Wilson laughed and said: “I really don’t have a comment on it.”

  13. Cyberclark:

    What is gained for anyone including yourself, from making up stories and spreading untruths?

    Wildrose has not opted out of any declaration of donors list
    Wildrose has never so much as even discussed selling water to the US
    Wildrose has publicly stated if will not raise taxes and their entire platform is based on smaller more responsible government to reduce the costs to taxpayers.

    If you wish to help others please write….and vote responsibly.

    • Untruths! Not a bit my friend.  Smith said she would divulge after the election was over following the rules.  Well, the rules say she can opt out for a 15,000 dollar fine.  That does not change the fact that a good part of the coin comes from vested interests in bulk water export.

      The Bulk Water Export play was put in by Mike Cardinal.  Two major things happened.  He sold crown holdings (mostly rock piles and scrub) bordering  St Mary’s to unnamed people. Then they changed the bylaws in the water club down there.  Under new rules living in the proximity of St Marys does not give you voting rights.  You must own property located on the “shore”.

      This is Smiths back yard!  She doesn’t know about it; does not approve of it?

      And, certainly Orman and her are of a very like mind!  Orman was part of the group that commissioned the engineering on moving 2/3s the flow of the Peace River to the US Border!  You can pretend what ever you want about “discussing” but Harper turned over all the authority on exporting water over to the provinces the last time he was in office.

      Wild Rose entire platform is BS, verbal garbage to attract a gullible public.  Smith did reject stop using the Heritage Trust Fund as a general Revenue account.  At the same time she said she was prepared to start at “New fund, like the heritage Trust” as a taxpayer account.

      She is not going to raise royalty that is certain.   32 million dollars a day leach on this province is at least 32 million reasons to get off the WRP train.  Like the Conservatives they have no interest in the well being of this province, only their own politcal glamor.

    • I will repeat; it is a heart break when you discover people whom you have supported; even loved betray you.  However, for the sake of your kids you have to get past that!

      Untruths! Not a bit my friend.  Smith said she would
      divulge after the election was over following the rules.  Well, the rules
      say she can opt out for a 15,000 dollar fine.  That does not change the
      fact that a good part of the coin comes from vested interests in bulk water
      export.

      The Bulk Water Export play was put in by Mike Cardinal.  Two major things
      happened.  He sold crown holdings (mostly rock piles and scrub)
      bordering  St Mary’s to unnamed people. Then they changed the bylaws in
      the water club down there.  Under new rules living in the proximity of St
      Marys does not give you voting rights.  You must own property located on
      the “shore”.

      At the same time, Cardinal sold off or leased Crown Grazing land on the East side of the Rocky Mountains to the Agri Food industry.  This is the origin of our ground water!  Cardinal would not release any names on the transactions nor would he give a straight answer on water rights!    Albertans should be very worried about either Smith or Redford!

      This is Smiths back yard!  Certainly she knows about it and approves of it.

      And, certainly Rick Orman and her are of a very like mind!  Orman was part of
      the group that commissioned the engineering on moving 2/3s the flow of the
      Peace River to the US Border!  You can pretend whatever you want about
      “discussing” but Harper turned over all the authority on exporting
      water over to the provinces the last time he was in office.

      Wild Rose entire platform is BS, verbal garbage to attract a gullible
      public.  Smith did reject stop using the Heritage Trust Fund as a general
      Revenue account.  At the same time she said she was prepared to start at
      “New fund, like the heritage Trust” as a taxpayer account.

      She is not going to raise royalty that is certain.   32 million
      dollars a day leach on this province is at least 32 million reasons to get off
      the WRP train.  Like the Conservatives they have no interest in the well
      being of this province, only their own political glamor.

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