Alberta Politics

In Alberta, the billionaire walks and the working man gets the shaft.

The billionaire walks…

There was little surprise among the cynical pundit class yesterday as Elections Alberta announced that it had found billionaire Daryl Katz and his Katz Group broke no laws when the company delivered a donation in the form of a $430,000 bank draft to Premier Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservative Party during last year’s provincial election.

Daryl Katz

Even though the maximum donation limit during an election period is $30,000, according to Elections Alberta the $430,000 donation was legitimate because it was accompanied by a paper trail of 17 individuals and professional corporations who wished to receive tax-receipts in amounts of $30,000, $25,000, $20,000, and $15,000. Tax-receipts were issued for Mr. Katz, members of his family, and senior employees of his company.

Only the portion of the donation assigned to Mr. Katz’s Chief Financial Officer, Paul Marcaccio, was ruled inappropriate because he is not an ordinary resident of Alberta. The PC Party announced that it returned the $25,000 that was assigned from Mr. Marcaccio.

Even if the Katz Group donation was found to be legal, it certainly goes against the spirit of the law and demonstrates how easy Alberta’s flimsy political finance laws are to circumvent.

The $430,000 donation represented 26% of the money raised by the PC Party during last year’s election period. It could be speculated that this is the reason the PC Party reneged on a promise to reveal their list of donors in the final week of the campaign.

…and the working man gets the shaft.

Corrections Officers on strike last weekend.
Corrections Officers on strike last weekend.

One day after ending a 5-day wildcat strike spurred by serious concerns about safety in the workplace, Corrections Officers represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) claim they are being threatened with punishment by senior managers in the Solicitor General’s department. This goes against an agreement to end the strike reached by AUPE President Guy Smith and the government’s front-man on the issue – Premier Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk – that union members would not be punished for going on strike.

Front-line Corrections Officers at the new Edmonton Remand Centre began a wildcat strike last week after they felt serious safety concerns were not being addressed by their management. The wildcat strike quickly spread across the province as Corrections Officers at other jails walked off the job in a show of solidarity with their colleagues in Edmonton.

Having avoided making any public comments on the issue until the strike was over, Premier Redford emerged at a press conference in Calgary to announce the government would take legal action against AUPE to recoup any costs to the government caused by the strike.

Meanwhile, in a move that could unravel the one-day labour peace, Solicitor General Jonathan Denis announced the province wants to suspend AUPE’s rights to collect dues from all government employees for a six-month period.

The government’s request to the Labour Relations Board would withhold dues of tens of thousands of AUPE members who had no connection to the striking Corrections Officers and is a move that is certainly meant to cripple, and poison the government’s relationship, with the union of 80,000 Government of Alberta employees. The Public Service Employee Relations Act allows for suspension of dues only for individual union locals, not for an entire union membership.