While announcing the dates of their upcoming leadership contest last week, the Alberta Party also released the contest rules, which include some interesting and encouraging requirements for candidates to release and make public a list of financial donors to their campaign.
A condition of candidacy is that a candidate for election as Leader shall consent to full disclosure of all donations, receipts and expenses related to the campaign, including:
(i) an interim report on the same, in the form adopted by the convention rules committee which shall be filed by the Official Agent of the candidates with the Convention Rules Committee 14 days in advance of Voting Day; and
(ii) a final report on the same, which shall be filed by the Official Agent of the candidate with the Convention Rules Committee within 30 days after voting day
The donor information contained in both the interim and final reports referred to in (5) above will be posted by the Alberta Party to its website (Candidates are urged to post donor information, for the knowledge of the public, on a real time basis).
There are no laws governing political party leadership contest in Alberta and each party has the opportunity to be as transparent or closed-door as they decide when it comes to financial contributions and making public the names of campaign donors.
There were no rules requiring candidates in the 2006 PC leadership contest to release the names of their financial donors, but this did not stop some from making their donor lists public.
Candidates Jim Dinning, Dave Hancock, and Mark Norris released varying versions of donors lists, some which included specific donation amounts for each donor and some listing donors in categories between donation sizes. Current Finance Minister Ted Morton refused to make public a list of donors who supported his bid to become Leader of the PC Party.
The contest winner, now-Premier Ed Stelmach released a partial list of financial contributors to his leadership campaign, keeping secret the names of 80 donors whose contributions made up 15% of the $1.1 million raised by his leadership campaign. The partially released list allowed the media and opposition parties to later point out fairly obvious conflict-of-interests, but the remaining eighty donors remain secret.
While not committing to implement any changes in the short-term, PC Party President Bill Smith has publicly committed to have a system in place to monitor and make public who donates cash to their leadership campaigns for his party’s next leadership campaign.
Candidates in the December 2008 Liberal leadership contest were required to provide the Party with a list of donors who had contributed to their campaign. The donors lists were then posted on the Liberal Party website. The section of the Liberal Party website that had listed these donors was removed when that Party relaunched their website late last year.
New Democratic Party
I was not able to find any current information on whether candidates for the leadership of Alberta’s NDP would be required to release a list of financial contributions. The last time the Alberta NDP held a contested leadership race was in 1996, so it is possible that in the absence of a campaign over the past 15 year that these rules do not exist.
Leadership candidates in the 2009 contest were not required to release a list of their financial contributors. Leadership contest winner and current Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith claims to have raised $250,000 for her leadership campaign, but has refused to release the names of her donors. Ms. Smith told the Edmonton Journal after her election in 2009 that she would not make public a list of her donors because they “are afraid of repercussions by this government.”
Alberta’s former Chief Elections Officer, Lorne Gibson, proposed in 2009 that the Elections Finances Act be amended to include a section governing political party leadership finances. Mr. Gibson’s contract was not renewed by a PC MLA dominated legislative committee soon after the recommendations were made.
According to a report released by Public Interest Alberta, there are currently three Provinces that require party leadership contestants to release names of their financial backers. In Ontario, leadership candidates are required to report from the time of the official call of the contest until two months after the vote and then within six months of the contest’s completion. In Manitoba and British Columbia, leadership contestants are required to report a list of their financial contributions and donors thirty days after the end of the contest.