Call it the Alberta Political Advantage.
Reports of illegal and questionable political donations have dogged Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government for years. These included contributions made by such public institutions as municipalities, colleges, universities, and health regions, as well as iffy “bulk contributions” organized by well-heeled private citizens who were friends of the PC Government.
Leastways, the Edmonton Sun and the Calgary Herald both reported late yesterday that Alberta’s chief electoral officer is investigating two companies owned 100 per cent by Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman, a former PC, for making multiple donations to his own party exceeding limits on donations from multiple companies owned by the same person.
The investigation is based on a complaint made by Edmonton-based researcher Tony Clark.
Alberta Liberal Party financial statements posted by Elections Alberta show donations from Rajnish Sherman Professional Corp. and Empress Group Ltd., both wholly owned by Dr. Sherman, were greater than the allowable annual $15,000 donation limit by $2,000 in 2011 and by $4,000 in 2012, Mr. Clark said in a letter to Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler.
The same law limits donations from the same individual or companies owned by the same person to $30,000 during the campaign period between an election call and voting day, and also makes it illegal for a party to accept a donation it knows exceeds the allowable limits for one individual or company.
According to the Liberals’ Elections Alberta filings, the same two corporations appear to have donated $30,000 to the party this year.
Dr. Sherman told the Herald he does not believe he broke the Alberta Election Financing and Contributions Disclosure Act. “These are separate donations from separate entities,” the Herald quoted him as saying. “As far as I am aware, under the law I can do that.”
Dr. Sherman – like all other opposition politicians in Alberta, understandably enough – was strongly critical of Edmonton hockey and drugstore billionaire Daryl Katz’s involvement in the controversial “bulk donation” of $430,000 in the spring of 2012. That donation was made to the faltering campaign of premier Alison Redford, which was in danger of being swamped by a rising Wildrose tide during the last provincial general election.
That controversial donation, in the form of a single cheque from Katz Group Properties Inc., appeared to many Albertans to be in violation of the law – although Elections Alberta eventually ruled in 2013 that it was OK for a group of donors associated with companies owned by the owner of the Rexall drugstore chain and the Edmonton Oilers hockey club to contribute to a group donation even though it was handed over in the form of a single bank draft.
Notwithstanding Elections Alberta’s conclusion, the popular consensus, in the words of the National Post, was that the donation and the ruling made a mockery of the province’s election financing law.
Dr. Sherman said at the time that such donations tend to undermine public confidence in the system, and complained that the province’s election finance laws have “holes you could drive a truck through.”
“The current rules do nothing to prevent large contributions to all leadership candidates in all political parties from companies, unions, and wealthy individuals,” he told the Canadian Press.
One of those holes is a three-year statute of limitations, which means Dr. Sherman and his party couldn’t be prosecuted for what occurred in 2011 if it were deemed to be an offence.
Yesterday Dr. Sherman told the Sun any errors in his companies’ donations were “an innocent oversight” and that the party would refund the money if it is shown to be in the wrong. He complained to the Herald that the rules are “fuzzy.”
Moreover, Dr. Sherman said the donations from his companies “pale in comparison” to the pattern of illegal donations made to the PC Party over many years.
In that, he is most certainly right, although it might not have been the shrewdest thing to say under the circumstances.
This situation has the potential to become a serious embarrassment for Dr. Sherman and his Alberta Liberals. You have to know what the Tories are going to say if he points to sketchy donations by their supporters in the future.
On this topic at least, whatever the legal technicalities, it seems likely the public will conclude the Liberal leader has scored an “own goal.”
Pffft….! Dave when you read it, there is no criminal intent here. Just looks like a guy following the rules and putting his personal money where his mouth is, and that is a rare quality in politics anywhere!, maybe a little over zealously, but no intent to defraud. Do they seem like an electoral threat of some kind?…maybe to the an imagined party on the left! Big F. Deal Dave. Libs dont have union donations and huge corporate donations. They are represented by small votes, mostly. It looks like the Cons got the CTF as their proxy advocate and the AB Dippers got T_ony Cl_ark as theirs? Talk about astroturfers, cons and dips have been hoodwinking hard earning families for decades out of their tax money. Perhaps its time CTF and Mr. Clark have increased its research activities in all fairness, to equally blanket to ALL parties, All organizations including unions and NGO’s. This selective attacking reeks of drive by political opportunism. This is very much a non story…pfffffftttt!
What a bs story. Really? What massive influence did this guy buy except help his own parties’ best iwell being? The Liberals are not the slightest threat of any kind. A tempest in a teapot, really. Its like giving a photoradar ticket and demerits for going 1km over in a 50 km zone. The media is a complete joke. It will cost more money even looking into this than the paltry amounts of over donation.
Not a supporter of the AB Libs (wish they would disappear) but would have to agree with others, a total non-story. The media are being idiots here. The law is the problem, not Sherman. But no, that would require questioning the entire electoral finance system (which is designed to help those in power), something the Sun and Herald would never do.
Andre, your irrationally entrenched dislike of Liberals is duly noted bless you for that, but so is the sensibility of your opinion of this being a non story, you should be commended for that. As a voter, I would NEVER wish for the NDP to dissappear, Never! they have done great social things as a fed and prov. party for people since their inception, but so have the Liberals, too many to list and to some extent the Harpo Cons…on some things only….on other things, Canada has regressed horribly. This sort of drive by characterization in this non story is disingenuous to the history of left wing politics and what it stands for and that is sad. Unfortunately media as well is more interested in selling biased facts, fueling controversy and bloggers and political parties alike have skewed selective morality and ethics and are more interested in fulfilling political affiliations and driveby mischaracterizations than actually speaking the right, moral and ethical story telling. Either these critics dont care what they are saying, or they dont really understand how they are playing a part in undermining democracy, whichever of the two it is, it is bad, horrible and mean to be this way. These into the mirror and ask themselves when and why they turned their back on being good people. Looks like House of Cards is alive and well in AB. I expect this sort of astroturfing by the CTF..but never expected the same low from the left. Times must be tough and creativity has reached a new low. Is it any wonder why progressive parties are viewed by normal voting Albertans as petty and ineffectual? Its this sort of small minded bitter politics that keeps the AB tories chugging along and laughing all the way to the bank every 4 years. Sensible, normal, rational tax paying people want productive, and effective politics, not this garbage.
Interesting information, but ultimately inconsequential. This only suggests that Raj is the biggest single donor the Alberta Liberals have.
Can we get back to publicly funded institutions that make illegal contributions to the PC party to curry favours?
Might I suggest an expense a la Charles Rusnell about how diva Sheila Weatherrhill is enjoying post retirement from AHS on our dime?
A lot of bashing going on here, but no one is dealing with the substance of the story, which is that the leader of a political party appears to have broken the election finance laws of Alberta. If the punishment meted out to the Katz Group is any indication, Sherman will get a slap on the wrist at best. But for a guy that has spoken out so loudly against the very rule-breaking he appears to have committed, calling this an “own goal” is very mild criticism. The story calls for reflection on the part of the Alberta Liberals, not deflection.
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