The Calgary Herald is reporting that Dr. Sherman may have exceeded the $15,000 limit for donations three times in the past four years and donated double the limit this year through corporations he controls.
The questionable donations were first noticed by former New Democratic Party staffer Tony Clark, who brought them to the attention of Glen Resler, Alberta’s Chief Elections Officer.
And it is not just the money given which is a potential issue, because Dr. Sherman and his corporations would have also received tax credits in return for those donations. Dr. Sherman claims he did not deliberately break the rules, but this could still cause lasting damage to his troubled party’s credibility.
Fundraising has always been a challenge for the Liberals and starting in 2009, the party struggled to compete with the fundraising dollars captured by Danielle Smith’s rising Wildrose Party. Lately, Dr. Sherman’s party has struggled to compete with the NDP, now led by Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley.
In the first three quarters of 2014, Elections Alberta financial disclosures show the Liberals raised $242,499.16, close to half of the $474,306.85 raised by the NDP in the same period.
It is hard to write about the Alberta Liberal Party these days without feeling as if I am kicking a wounded animal. The once confident official opposition party has now dwindled down to a group of MLAs who more closely resemble a coalition of independents than a united front.
Over the past two years, Dr. Sherman’s Liberals have undergone a strange brand transformation, first abandoning the traditional Liberal red for a green Liberalberta brand, and then sixteen months later back to red.
The Liberals will soon lose Calgary MLAs Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang to federal political ambitions, and when that happens, the 3 MLA caucus will face the threat of losing official party status, and funding, in the Legislative Assembly. The Liberal Party’s poor showing in four October 27 by-elections also does not give the party much to build upon.
But the party’s bleak prospects do not mean that individual MLAs are not doing good work. Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman, will continue the good work started by soon-departing Mr. Hehr with her private members bill to create safer environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth in Alberta schools.
A similar bill introduced by Mr. Hehr in spring 2013 was defeated by a coalition of Progressive Conservative and Wildrose MLAs.
A strong argument can be made that the five Liberal MLAs who were re-elected in the 2012 election did so on their own merits as strong local representatives and despite the weakness of their party brand.
If Dr. Sherman’s party continues to limp in obscurity, the Liberal MLAs facing re-election in 2016 may have to determine whether their own hard work, rather than their current party brand, will be enough to win them their jobs back for another four years.