No one will say exactly how much money is in the old Saskatchewan Progressive Conservative trust fund, though it’s thought to be in the neighbourhood of $3 million. The revelation of its existence—a mountain of cash taken from God knows who, in exchange for God knows what, and available for any purpose the party might decree—was among the scandals that helped tear the province’s PCs apart in the mid-’90s. But that gold continues to haunt Saskatchewan politics, as a few diehard Tories fight to regain control of it.
The PC brand was mothballed for two elections (1999 and 2003) as part of the 1997 agreement to create the Saskatchewan Party, an informal merger of the province’s PCs and Liberals. The Conservatives ran just enough candidates to stay technically alive as the Saskatchewan Party approached the brink of power. But after a 2006 convention put the PC brand back into competitive politics with ex-MLA Rick Swenson as leader, the revivalists found that the fund’s trustees, including several SP notables, were inclined to be stubborn about access to the cash.
A lawsuit resulted, and in July the provincial court of appeal allowed the Saskatchewan Party to be added as a defendant. In an August statement of defence, however, the SP makes the new argument that neither itself nor the PCs are corporate bodies that have the “capacity to sue or be sued.” The claim may sound surprising, but until recently it was the general Canadian rule that “unincorporated associations” are invisible to litigation. The issue of whether parties can count as legal persons in Saskatchewan adds an interesting wrinkle to an already complex bit of legal origami.