Tag Archives: Larry Booi

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was a guest on the #abvote Google Hangout on April 9, 2015.

Notley’s NDP should ban corporate and union donations in municipal elections

One of the main promises made by the NDP before their win in the May 2015 provincial election was a commitment to ban corporate and union donations in provincial politics.

Current campaign finance laws allow individuals, corporations and labour unions to donate a maximum of $15,000 per year to a provincial political party in a non-election period and a maximum of $30,000 during an election period. The previous governing party, the Progressive Conservatives, relied heavily on corporate donations to fill their coffers but the new governing New Democratic Party and official opposition Wildrose Party have cultivated large individual donor bases that contribute smaller donations so they do not rely on larger donations.

The NDP should not limit the ban on corporate and union donations to the provincial level, they should also ban corporate and union donations in municipal elections. The provincial legislature approves the law that governs municipal election financing, which allows corporate, union and individual donations up to $5,000 during an election year. The provincial law also allows for an odd exemption that individual municipal candidates can contribute a maximum of $10,000 to their own campaign.

Research compiled by the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues in June 2014 found that in Edmonton’s recent municipal elections: (1) the most successful fundraiser was the victorious candidate in 100% of ward races; (2) successful candidates raised an average of three times more money than the second place candidate in their respective race, and four times more than all other candidates combined; and (3) on average, successful candidates received more than five times the number of donations be- tween $101 and $4,999 than other candidates, and close to triple the number of $5,000 donations (the maximum contribution).

‘The EFCL is concerned that some of our most dedicated and qualified potential public servants are getting priced out of office. It is also concerned about council members being placed in difficult situations, when the majority of the donations are coming from companies and unions that have a direct interest in decisions made by city council.’ – EFCL

Along with eliminating corporate and union donations, the NDP should also impose a cap on the total amount a candidate or campaign can spend during a campaign. While there are currently no rules, in 2010, Calgary mayoral candidate Naheed Nenshi pledged to cap his campaign’s spending at $0.65 per resident.

The EFCL also wrote in their report that municipal candidates elected to Edmonton’s 12 councillor positions raised more than $80,000 on average in 2013, including three who raised more than $100,000 and two who raised less than $50,000. The most successful fundraiser was the victorious candidate in 100% of the ward races and successful candidates generally raised three times more money than the second place candidate. Many of these donations came from corporations and unions, including building developers who have a special interest in currying good relationships with municipal councillors.

In a recent op-ed in the Edmonton Journal, Public Interest Alberta‘s Larry Booi called on the new NDP government to institute campaign spending limits, lower contribution limits to $1,200 per year, impose much stronger rules on disclosure of contributions and spending and extend the rules on contributions and spending to cover party leadership and constituency contests. While Mr. Booi’s column focused on provincial campaign finance changes, there is no reason why they also cannot be extended to municipal election campaigns.

While the rules governing third-party campaigns in provincial elections are problematic, the provincial government needs to lay out fair rules governing financial disclosures and amounts that third-party campaigns and lobby groups can spend influencing voters in municipal elections. There are already plenty of examples of wealthy individuals attempting to advance their political agendas by supporting unaccountable lobby groups, as was the case with Calgary’s infamous Sprawl Cabal‘s plans to throw more than $1 million behind Preston Manning‘s “Municipal Governance Initiative,” and the anonymous donors behind the shady ‘St. Albert Think Tank.’

The province needs to create a formal enforcement and investigation mechanism to respond to complaints about potential breeches of the municipal campaign donation laws. In one case, both the City of St. Albert and the provincial government refused to verify the candidate financial disclosures or enforce them after complaints were made by members of the public.

“My role as returning officer is to receive the submissions that candidates provide … and to make them publicly available and that’s really the extent of our role in this process,” a St. Albert’s returning officer told the St. Albert Gazette in 2014. If the municipalities will not enforce the provincially-imposed laws, then the provincial government should create an organization that will.

Premier Rachel Notley and Alberta’s new NDP government have pledged to ban corporate and union donations in provincial politics, and they now have what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to clean up election finance laws in Alberta’s municipal elections as well.

Parkland report calls for political finance reform

The University of Alberta-based Parkland Institute released a new report this morning, Ending Pay to Play: The Need for Political Finance Reform in Alberta: “Given the consensus that exists between the government and official opposition to ban corporate and union donations, it should act immediately to do so. While this in itself would be a major victory for democracy, it is crucial that the government does not stop there, but rather works to fundamentally reform Alberta’s political culture in the public interest.”

alberta candidate nomination update – october 2011 (part 2)

I have updated the list of declared and nominated candidates standing for the next Alberta provincial general election. By my count, the parties have now nominated the following number of candidates out of 87 constituencies in the next election: Alberta Party 11/87, Liberal 20/87, New Democratic Party 49/87, Progressive Conservative 39/87, Wildrose 53/87.

Here are some of the recent additions to the list:

Chestermere-Rockyview – Global Television host Bruce McAllister is the new Wildrose candidate in this Calgary area constituency. Disappearing from the Wildrose candidate roster is Chestermere Town Councillor Heather Davies, who was nominated as the Wildrose candidate in May 2011.

Drumheller-Stettler: Rick Strankman was nominated as the Wildrose candidate after defeating jeweller Doug Wade in a contested race. A third candidate, past-candidate Dave France called foul against his party after he was disqualified from the nomination at the last minute.

Calgary-Hays: Former Libertarian Party of Canada leader Dennis Young also says he was unfairly disqualified from the Wildrose nomination in this sprawling south east Calgary constituency.

Calgary-Currie: Calgary businessman Norval Horner, a cousin of Deputy Premier Doug Horner, was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in this constituency, which elected Liberal-turned-Alberta Party MLA Dave Taylor in 2004 and 2008. It is also expected that 2008 Progressive Conservative candidate Arthur Kent may run in this constituency as an Independent candidate.

Calgary-Klein: The Liberal Party nomination scheduled for October 15 was postponed. Candidates seeking the nomination included Vincent St. Pierre and Matthew Moody. Mr. Moody unexpectedly withdrew from the contest at the last minute.

Grande Prairie-Wapiti: Ethane Jarvis is the nominated Wildrose candidate.

Edmonton-Glenora – Former MLA Bruce Miller was nominated as the Liberal Party candidate in this constituency. Liberal insiders say that local restauranteur and artist Sheri Somerville was heavily courted to run, but declined to seek the Liberal nomination. Reverend Miller was first elected in 2004 with 35% of the vote in a close three way contest between himself, high-profile NDP candidate Larry Booi, and PC MLA Drew Hutton, and he was defeated by now-Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk in 2008 by 104 votes.

Edmonton-Strathcona: NDP MLA Rachel Notley was nominated as her party’s candidate at a meeting attended by Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies. Ms. Notley was first elected as the MLA for this constituency in 2008, earning 49% of the vote.

Red Deer-South: On October 25, the NDP are expected to nominate former five-term City Councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer as their candidate.

democratic renewal project letter to david eggen.

The Democratic Renewal Project (DRP) has sent a letter to former Edmonton-Calder NDP MLA David Eggen urging him to not seek the NDP nomination in new Edmonton-Glenora (Read: DRP letter to David Eggen re Glenora vs Northwest).

The DRP believe that a “united alternative” to the governing PCs should take place not in the formation of a new united party but through a “non-competition agreement” between the already existing Liberal Party and NDP. The letter suggests that Mr. Eggen should seek election in the new Edmonton-Northwest constituency to avoid splitting the vote in the formerly Liberal-held Glenora constituency (under the new boundaries, Calder will be dissolved, leaving Mr. Eggen’s home in the new Glenora).

The DRPs argument in Glenora is that a strong NDP candidate will split the vote with the Liberals and allow PC MLA Heather Klimchuk to be re-elected. There is little evidence to support this argument in Glenora, as in 2004 Liberal Bruce Miller was elected with 4,604 votes over second place New Democrat Larry Booi who earned 4,052 votes. With a low profile NDP candidate placing a distant third in 2008, Mr. Miller should have been re-elected with a 2,600 vote margin according to DRP logic. Instead, Mr. Booi’s votes from 2004 did not go to Mr. Miller and he was defeated by 130 votes.

Despite the hard work of their dedicated supporters, neither the Liberals or the NDP have proven that their parties have the ability to connect with Albertans outside of their already supportive urban enclaves. Perhaps the problem is not the competition for votes between the already existing parties, but that neither of the two parties are seen as viable alternatives to the governing PCs?

With declining voter turnout and a growing disconnect between citizens and the democratic process the solution should be to provide more opportunities for meaningful engagement. Decreasing choice of candidates is not a smart solution and neither is limiting the opportunity for already engaged citizens to participate in the democratic system by running as candidates in their communities.

David Eggen should run in Edmonton-Glenora because he is an engaged citizen and a good candidate. Voters in that constituency are smart enough to decide who their representative will be.

(I have already written two posts on battleground Glenora here and here.)

electoral battleground: edmonton-glenora.

The new Edmonton-Glenora under the proposed electoral boundaries.

Former MLA David Eggen has declared his intention to seek the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Glenora for the next provincial election. Mr. Eggen was first elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Calder in 2004 and served as the NDPs environment critic. In 2008, he was narrowly defeated in a close race with PC candidate Doug Elniski. Since then, he has served as Executive Director of the Friends of Medicare.

Mr. Eggen will likely face off with Service Alberta Minister Heather Klimchuk (if she seeks re-election). Minister Klimchuk was elected in 2008 when she defeated Liberal MLA Reverend Bruce Miller in a hotly contested race. The Liberals have yet to announce their Glenora candidate, but have elected MLAs in the riding from 1993 to 2001 and 2004 to 2008.

Since 2001, each election in Glenora and Calder has been decided by less than 500 votes. Here are the combined results for the new Glenora boundaries from the past two provincial elections (see the picture above for the new boundaries with the poll-by-poll results from 2008):

2008 Election
PC: 4,738
Lib 4,405
ND: 2,677
Grn: 477
WR: 219

2004 Election
Lib: 4,875
NDP: 4,521
PC: 3,989
AA: 371
Grn: 231
SC: 88

In 2008, the vote turnout in the two constituencies were 40% in Calder and 42% in Glenora. Both the Liberals and PCs have held solid bases of support in Glenora for decades and the NDP had been less of a factor until the two recent elections.

In 2004, the NDP focused their resources behind Mr. Eggen in Calder and former Alberta Teachers’ Association President Larry Booi in Glenora. While Mr. Eggen was elected in a close race with PC MLA Brent Rathgeber, Mr. Booi placed second in a tight three-way race between PC MLA Drew Hutton and Reverend Miller. In 2008, the NDP focused less resources on Glenora in 2008 and fell to third place.

With a strong candidate like Mr. Eggen and two years to campaign before the next election, the NDP could be back in contention for this riding in the next election. In a province-wide election that could be dominated by the PCs and Wildrose Alliance, this riding could be only one of the handful that the NDP are seriously in competition for.

Welcome to battleground Edmonton-Glenora.