“Mr. Katz declined requests for comment” was probably the least surprising sentence printed in the Globe & Mail this week as the national newspaper published reports that reclusive billionaire Daryl Katz had allegedly donated $430,000 to Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party during the recent provincial election. The maximum contribution limits allowed under elections financing laws are $30,000 during the election, which makes these allegations against Mr. Katz and Premier Alison Redford‘s governing party absolutely shocking.
Initial reviews of the recently released Elections Alberta financial disclosures from the election period showed that Mr. Katz, his wife, his parents, his company and its top executives donated a combined $300,000 to the PC Party. This number was increased yesterday when the Globe & Mail reported that a source close to the PC alleged that “Mr. Katz provided a cheque for $430,000 to the PCs, a donation that was broken up into smaller pieces.” If true, Mr. Katz’s donations would represent a significant amount of the $1,522,581 raised through donations by the PC Party during the recent election.
Mr. Katz, the billionaire pharmaceutical retail company magnate and owner of the Edmonton Oilers, had previously only made small contributions to the PC Party and the Wildrose Party. In 2007, Mr. Katz’s company donated $15,000 to Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s re-election campaign.
This debacle comes only weeks after Mr. Katz’s attempted to renegotiate through the media the rich deal his company had already negotiated with the City of Edmonton to fund construction of a new sports arena. When City Councillors justifiably asked Mr. Katz to meet with them to discuss his new demands, the billionaire refused and then claimed through the purchase of an expensive full-page advertisement in a local newspaper that Councillors were being unreasonable.
One of the big sticking points of the original funding agreement between the City and the Katz Group was the $100 million missing from the proposed funding formula. While Mayor Mandel has been reported as saying he was confident the provincial government would fill the funding gap, Premier Redford, Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, and Finance Minister Doug Horner have been firm in their comments that the province would not provide the $100 million (likely due to similar funding demands that would emerge from Alberta’s other major urban centres).
Mr. Katz’s past donations to provincial political parties, which have been relatively small, makes these large donations suspect. Did Mr. Katz believe that these contributions would help his company’s chances of receiving funding from the provincial government for their proposed sports arena? Alberta’s opposition politicians seem to believe so.
New Democrat leader Brian Mason, who was a city councillor when Edmonton’s last cherished (sic) sports team mogul, Peter Pockington, threatened to move the Oilers unless the municipal government caved to his demands, has been speaking out for the past few years against provincial funding for the arena.
Mr. Mason, official opposition leader Danielle Smith, and Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson questioned Premier Redford and her cabinet ministers in Question Period yesterday. Not surprisingly, Premier Redford downplayed the allegations, saying that her party would cooperate with any investigation into the matter and that the PC victory in the recent election showed Albertans had confidence in her government.
In the months before the provincial election, Premier Redford’s Tories were criticized for accepting donations from municipalities and public institutions, which are banned under political finance laws. The slow response and lack of transparency of the investigations carried out by Elections Alberta made a strong case for stronger enforcement and reform of Alberta’s election finance laws. Mr. Katz’s alleged donations makes the case even stronger.
Who raised how much?
Elections Alberta released the financial disclosures this week, giving Albertans a chance to view how well funded Alberta’s political parties were during the recent election.
Raj Sherman‘s Liberals raised $112,407 in individual and corporate donations during the election campaign, the New Democrats raised $517,165, the Alberta Party raised $36,967, and Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party raised a staggering $2,935,008 and spent more than $3 million during that period.
The governing Progressive Conservatives only raised $1,522,581 in financial contributions during the election period and spent $4,663,202, running a deficit of more than $3 million.
It is important to note that these disclosures only include the funds raised by the political parties during the election. Individual candidates raised significant amounts during the election campaign.