illegal donations continue to dog alberta’s tories.

Tories Illegal Donations

Another case of illegal donations to the PC Party has been relvealed.

In the weeks leading to the election call earlier this year, it appeared that a series of illegal donations collected by Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Association could become a defining issue of the campaign. The donations, made public through the great investigative work of CBC reporter Charles Rusnell, revealed that many public institutions, municipalities, and organizations that receive public funds had made financial or in-kind donations to the PC Party. Under the laws that govern Alberta’s political financing, these types of contributions are deemed illegal.

As the Writ was dropped and the electioneering began, the public focus shifted away from the illegal donations towards more sensational issues, like MLA pay, which were soon eclipsed by other issues and the Tories were re-elected on April 23.

Brian Fjeldheim

Brian Fjeldheim

As the Assembly ended and summer break began last week, Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer O. Brian Fjeldheim had announced that Elections Alberta was charging fines to some of these groups but would not make public the names of these groups. Mr. Fjeldheim told the media that he is barred by law from making these names public and does not have the authority to further investigate breaches of Alberta’s political financing laws.

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk and Justice Minister Jonathan Denis responded by claiming the Chief Electoral Officer’s inability to publicly release the group names was a results of recommendations made by Mr. Fjeldheim’s predecessor, Lorne Gibson.

The Calgary Herald’s Don Braid interviewed Mr. Gibson, who disputed this claim and said he is being used as a scapegoat by Tory politicians:

It stretches the bounds of credibility to suggest that the intention of (my) recommendation was to keep private the results of an investigations that lead to a finding of wrongdoing.

This week, Mr. Rusnell unveiled another case of illegal contributions. Documents obtained by the CBC show that Joe Lougheed, a prominent lawyer and the son of former Premier Peter Lougheed, purchased $4,500 worth of tickets to PC Party fundraisers on behalf of the University of Calgary and billed the University extra hours to pay for them. To the university’s credit, their legal counsel put an end to the practice.

Joe Lougheed

Joe Lougheed

Mr. Lougheed’s connections to the PC Party are more than just familial. He has been active in that party and he ran for to be President of the PC Party in 2007. He was defeated by Marg Mrazek in what was split between northern and southern regional factions within the party (Ms.Mrazek was from St. Albert, which is located north of Edmonton).  At the time, Mount Royal University Professor David Taras described Mr. Lougheed as “a symbol of the old party and Calgary power.”

Since her stepping into the role last year, PC Premier Alison Redford has made a priority to improve her party’s image amid these types of allegations. This is not an easy task. After four decades in government, her party has essentially institutionalized this type of behaviour. I would not be shocked if the University of Calgary is not the final example.

Before the election, opposition party leaders claimed that that many of these institutions and municipalities faced intimidation to make those donations. Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman frequently used the example of the banned donations to accuse the Tories of practising “warlord politics” in rural Alberta.

While there does not seem to be much hard evidence proving the claims of intimidation, Alberta’s one-party state political environment has certainly created the belief that joining and supporting the PC Party is the only way to participate and influence debate in this province. It is just the way business is done in Alberta.

14 thoughts on “illegal donations continue to dog alberta’s tories.

  1. Joe Edmonton

    Now if there was an organized effort soliciting funds, describing the tactics to use (over billing, expense reimbursement) by the PC Party, that would be a scandal. But a handful of people illegally submitting expense claims for personal donations, along with one case of over billing to donate, does not make a scandal.

    Like really, these are small potatoes.

    Are we going to blame the Wildrose or Liberals for every illegally expensed donation? The crime being committed is by the donator, not the reciever.

    Reply
  2. Joe Edmonton

    The second last sentence should read:

    Are we going to blame the Wildrose or Liberals for every illegally expensed donation *given to them*?

    Reply
  3. Martin Levenson

    I think your last sentence says it all, Dave. “It is just the way business is done in Alberta”.

    There’s an entrenched “good ol’ boy” network in Alberta, and I would be VERY surprised if the somewhat shady ethical standards of the PC fundraisers(and those who donate to them) did not extend to the business sector generally when it comes to awarding contracts, signing leases,etc.

    The “Golden Rule”, redux: those who have the gold, make the rules. That DOESN’T mean, however, that they feel obliged to follow those same rules. The wealthy and well-connected enjoy privilege and power that have little to do with ability and hard work, and much more to do with “who you know”.

    Reply
  4. bartinsky

    Isn’t it just terrible when success is rewarded, these donations are a result of success, nothing more. We are blessed to live in a great province, and for the most part we have had a government for 40 plus years that has condoned success, save for some of RedEds raids on oil profits, we exude progress. Yes there are many places onerous regulation is slowing progress and Alison needs to address these stupid regulations like the amount of time to permit drilling an oil/gas well, or the moronic private sewage disposal rules in force, but these things take time. Take all the screaming in the ephemeral media about twinning hiway 63, well the clowns in the media are to dull to realize it takes years to get permits from adjacent land owners to start a project like that, and this permitting has been going on behind the scenes, but for a headline, you need to have a picture heavy machinery tearing up some ground.

    Reply
  5. We are Sleazy

    Church groups, community groups, special interest organizations, constituency organizations, charitable organizations, we are ALL guilty for looking the other way, we practice one thing on Sundays, another the other 6 days of the week. There is so much money flowing around here, we serve two masters.

    @Daveberta,

    You said: “While there does not seem to be much hard evidence proving the claims of intimidation”

    R U sniffing paint? Almost 20 docs have come forward, the scathing report by the HQC, you have the gall to say there is NO hard evidence of intimidation?

    Then why do authorities force mobbed docs to sign non-disclosure agreements? Why did they turn hell upside to avoid a PUBLIC JUDICIAL INQUIRY?

    Your comments saying there is no hard evidence, are comments not worthy of an informed and intelligent blogger.

    Reply
  6. Whitewash AB

    Thhis is why AB is the best place to do business. We have huge inequity in the tax structure. We don’t do any stewardship to the environment. No matter how many Oilsands operations come to operate and the increased royalty collection, despite it being at 5%, there will never be enough money to educate our public nor provide them good healthcare access, nor good infrastructure. Oil execs in Calgary, will continue to get 50% + return on all investments on which they will pay little to no taxes.

    Everything gets easily whitewashed and brushed under the carpet. Its funny how everybody looks the other way, when so much money is involved. As our economy heats up and ramps up, there is no intelligent and diligent plan to manage the resources, development, labour shortages and coming social problems that are often a part of these huge booms.

    Rest assured, Redfort WILL NOT fix healthcare NOR seniors issues. With almost a genie in her bottle at her di$posal, there is no political will to fix anything. Its about continued and deeply imbalanced management. Despots would be envious with what flys in AB and the level of whitewash.

    Reply
  7. CrescentHeightsGuy

    Joe ETown:
    >Like really, these are small potatoes

    Really? If I took 10,000 a year from my employer and gave it to my favourite charity or church it would be theft and I would be fired and liable for criminal prosecution.

    This corrosive practice eats away at the very foundations of government. If I know my taxes are going to the PC party and not to education, then I’m not paying.

    To me it looks like Joe Lougheed is stealing from his employer. If you think that’s small potatoes, then you wont mind sending me $10,000 for this club I’m forming. Hell, just send your bank card and PIN number. Trust me, it’s for your own good.

    Reply
  8. Kyle

    “Really? If I took 10,000 a year from my employer and gave it to my favourite charity or church it would be theft and I would be fired and liable for criminal prosecution”

    Yeah, it is a big deal for the person who committed the crime (the expense filer/over biller), and the group who paid the amount, but I fail to see where any MLAs or the PC party is responsible for this.

    Should all the parties run full background checks on every donation?

    Reply
  9. The Spectator

    Maybe all this will be addressed at the Press Conference to let us know how the Bilderberg trip went.

    Reply
  10. c'mon seriously

    Further to Kyle’s point, and I will use Joe Lougheed as an example because his name was brought up in the original article.

    The local riding or PC Alberta receives a cheque from Joe Lougheed as a political donation (tickets to a fundraiser) They recieve the cheque from an individual and they issue a tax receipt to that individual. Seems normal.

    Joe Lougheed then seeks compensation from U of C. This is the problem. PC Alberta would never know what happens between Joe Lougheed and U of C after the payment was made and the receipt issued. They don’t call the employer of every single donor to make sure the donor didn’t seek compensation from their company.

    Believe it or not, this isn’t a “PC Corruption” issue. This isn’t something that MLA’s encourage people in their riding to do. They do solicit donations from individuals and private companies, as is their right to do – but they do not actively encourage them to recover those costs from their employers. Otherwise they would not issue tax receipts to the individuals, they would issue them to their employers who are actually making the donation.

    Furthermore, we have a safeguards in place to catch this type of thing. That is why you are hearing about it. The Electoral Officer did an investigation and they caught all wrongdoers, punished them and now everyone understands the issues better.

    As unpopular as it may be to say out loud, not everything that goes wrong in our world is because of blatent corrpution of our democratically elected officials.

    Reply
  11. Kim

    I have to disagree with you Joe. It IS the receiver’s job to know which are illegal and which are not. To have our Deputy Premier and Justice Minister outright LIE about why they can’t release names and scapegoat the former Chief Electoral Officer is disgraceful. Now I know why Redford has deputized Lukaszuk. He’ll say anything.

    Reply
  12. SnoochBoochy

    I can not stand the apathy in the comments, regarding this is how business is done here. Yeah that may be the case, and what we should all just throw our hands in the air and say F it? Where have all the actual MEN in our society gone to?…Well they, and the people who support them, are all just Criminals and Thieves but oh well may as well just join them because I DON’T HAVE ANY BALLS TO STAND UP AND SAY NO, ENOUGH WE WILL TAKE NO MORE!
    These Dirty tyrannical politic playing Whores are on Notice, we will keep account of your crimes and we will hold you to the law of the Land.
    We are getting to a point as a North American culture where our children are unhappy and will not take much more just as in the 60’s.

    We can have an honest system! But first we have to believe an honest system can be had.
    The problem is that WE the people have turned over the keys to the dirtiest crooks around. Lets remember they are OUR keys!

    Reply
  13. c'mon seriously

    Kim – the donations themselves were not illegal. What was illegal was when the donor sought compensation from their employers.

    Reply
  14. Shaun Byce

    Receiving illegal donations unwittingly: plausibly deniable. PC’s not culpable.

    Hiding the names of the actual culprits from the rest of us, behind legislation written in Redford’s own words designed precisely for the purpose of obfuscation: Unconscionable. PC’s guilty as charged on that one, no?

    Reply

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