One big cheque from Daryl Katz, many bigger questions in Edmonton

The Oilers’ owner faces a probe over his gift to the Alberta Tories

by Colby Cosh

Jeff McIntosh/CP

The public-relations problems continue to pile up for Daryl Katz, the drugstore magnate who wants a new downtown arena in Edmonton for his NHL Oilers to play in. It has been more than a year since Katz Group and the city’s council arrived at a “framework” for an arena funding deal, with Katz relenting on his insistence that the existing Rexall Place be pushed out of the concert business. That framework fell apart Oct. 18 after Katz made new demands and a previously sympathetic council ran out of patience, calling off negotiations and flinging the arena into limbo.

The city had made major concessions to get Katz to back off on the demand for a non-compete agreement with Northlands, the powerful non-profit that operates Rexall Place (i.e., the old Northlands Coliseum, which now bears the name of Katz’s main pharmaceutical brand). But the two sides remained $100 million short of the full amount for the new building—money that both insisted, despite an endless series of fairly strident refusals from the province and Ottawa, would eventually arrive courtesy of “another level of government.”

This confidence in future largesse from on high was one of the enduring mysteries of the arena debate. But on Oct. 24 one of the pieces of the puzzle may have fallen into place as the province’s ruling Progressive Conservatives disclosed their campaign finances from the spring election. The PCs had been atypically hard-pressed by their new Wildrose rival, so much so that they spent $4.7 million on the campaign while raising only $1.6 million in donations—about half as much as the Wildrose took in.

The PCs’ 2012 donors turned out to include the Katz Group, Daryl Katz, his wife, his father, his mother, and several of his employees and business partners. The Globe and Mail dug into the disclosure docs, worked party sources, and learned that Katz had written the PCs a single cheque for $430,000, which was then split up amongst individuals in order to comply with a limit of $30,000 per campaign period. According to the Globe, the money arrived late in the campaign, just as the PCs were struggling in the polls.

The letter of Alberta election law seems clear on the “one cheque, many receipts” style of split donation: under section 34 (1) of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, no person is allowed to donate “funds not actually belonging to” them or “funds furnished . . . for the purpose of making a contribution.” And Katz may have another problem: according to a number of media reports, he lives in Vancouver, California, as well as his native Edmonton. Individual donors to provincial parties are legally required to be “ordinarily resident” in Alberta. The Globe’s revelations set off an investigation by Alberta’s chief electoral officer, Brian Fjeldheim, and after Maclean’s made note of the residency requirements in an online post, his spokesman declared that the investigation would include those too.

Alberta’s PC premier, Alison Redford, has remained as firm as ever about refusing to top up the Edmonton arena deal. Katz had apparently expected the city of Edmonton to somehow secure a provincial casino licence to fill in the last $100 million, but Redford is still saying there will be no cash and no casino. She has also promised to make the results of the electoral officer’s investigation public—something Alberta law does not yet technically require.

Meanwhile, the hubbub surrounding Katz’s donation has had the effect of raising questions about his presence on the board of AIMCo, the corporation that invests public pension funds and endowments (such as the Heritage Savings Trust Fund) on behalf of the province. The WAM Development Group is in business with Katz to develop the area around the proposed arena; WAM and AIMCo, meanwhile, are partners in northeast Calgary’s $3-billion StoneGate Landing office-retail complex, the biggest such project in that city’s history. Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner, who appoints the AIMCo board, laughed off Wildrose questions in the provincial assembly about the links, saying, “Mr. Speaker, next they’ll probably be suggesting that I was at the grassy knoll when JFK was assassinated.”

One big cheque from Daryl Katz, many bigger questions in Edmonton

    • I didn’t know that the mafia was demanding a new $475 million arena be built for them.

  1. Although Redford has always maintained there would be no money for a new arena, the PCs did recently double the amount paid to pharmacists for flu vaccines (from $11 to $20). Coincidentally, Katz owns a chain of drug stores.

    • And what pct of AB flu vaccines do you suppose are administered by Rexall Drug Store pharmacists? Then multiply by population of AB, and pct of pop that actually get immunized, then pct of the increased fees that actually go to the drugstore (as opposed to the pharmacist).

      Get back to us when you have a number to see if this is at all significant.

  2. This scandal is the largest ELECTORAL FRAUD in Canadian history. The situation is rapidly spiralling out of control. Redford’s PCs issued dozens of fraudulent tax credits to the implicated STRAW CONTRIBUTORS.

    There was very a damaging ELECTORAL HATE campaign unleashed by REDFORD PCs in the waning days of the election which included defacing opposition election signs with HATE messages. Questions arise if the KATZ ILLEGAL CONTRIBUTORS funded these HATE attacks.

    The Lieutenant Governor should dissolve this legislature , and issue a Royal Writ setting a date for a new election .

    It is further exasperated by the fact that Alberta Justice refuses to arrest and prosecute the ELECTORAL FRAUDSTERS AND HATE CRIMINALS.

    The complete lack of the Executive Branch, the Administrative Branch, and the Judical Branch to act to protect the freedoms and democratic rights of Albertans point to an
    OPERATIVE TYRANNY in Alberta.

    All Alarming to the SOVEREIGN: TREASON

    The Alberta PCs are a sinister political sect.

    • Don’t forget about all of those kittens that they drowned in the river just for the fun of it. And the children! What about the children? How can poor innocent children be exposed to this sort of political behavior?
      Get a grip James, this is a story about Daryl Katz. This is NOT about hate crimes, tyranny or treason. If you actually believe what you are writing then you might want to cut back on your medication.

  3. The CCRA is going to have fun going through all the tax filings after this is settled and looking for any creative claims.

    • Thanks for the link. Good stuff!

  4. Keep ‘m coming, Colby! Un-be-lie-va-ble.

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