PHOTOS: The Alberta Legislature, about the best your blogger can do on the road to illustrate this illustration-resistant story (Photo: Wikimedia Commons). Below: Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney and Wildrose Treasurer James Cole, every one of them people mentioned in this story of whom photos exist.


It turns out the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties have a plan for ensuring their constituency associations get to hang onto their assets when they merge into the United Conservative Party, notwithstanding an Alberta law that says they can’t.

It’s breathtaking in both its simplicity and its arrogance. They’ll just change the law to suit themselves.

This isn’t unheard of in the annals of politics, of course, but it’s certainly brazen to just lay it out as the Wildrosers did yesterday in a memorandum to their constituency association boards, which was also sent to the party’s general membership.

The memorandum was apparently intended to reassure members who might be considering voting against the merger plan, although its eye popping chutzpah may shock some Albertans who aren’t party members.

Wildrose members have apparently been asking their party leaders what will happen to the money they donated to the constituency associations in their electoral districts if the two conservative parties “merge” by agreeing to form a new political entity, the UCP, as set out in their May 18 unification memorandum.

Their worry, sensibly enough, is that since party mergers are not actually allowed under Alberta’s Elections Finances and Contributions and Disclosure Act, it’s not clear what would happen to the money they donated to a party that was slated to cease to exist. Under the Act, if a registered provincial political party is dissolved, the funds are held in trust by Elections Alberta and eventually passed on to the government of Alberta’s general revenues.

Now, this part of Alberta’s legislation was drafted and passed when the PCs were still the government of Alberta, and it was generally assumed they would be forever. If a party were to be dissolved, it was understood, it wouldn’t be the Conservatives. It was also presumably accepted, quite rightly, that a donor to a political cause should have some reasonable certainty that his or her donation didn’t end up benefitting another political organization.

But that was then and this is now.

Accordingly, the Wildrose brain trust wrote its members, if the agreement in principle between the two parties is ratified on July 22 and then implemented, there are two “logical paths” that can be considered by Wildrose constituency associations, which are abbreviated as CAs in the memo.

The first, the memo says, is to “keep the CA’s assets and go dormant (other than monthly bank service charges).” A short discussion of the process for filing records follows, then …

“In 2019, the United Conservative Party (‘UCP’) would form the government and change the law to permit mergers of political parties,” the memo states. “At that time, the assets of the legacy Wildrose CA could be merged into the CA of the UCP in that constituency.”

Don’t worry! We’ll be automatically elected. And when we are, we’ll change the law to suit ourselves and to tilt the playing field in our direction. Easy-peasy!

My guess is that if a UCP government were elected, this formula would be applied to more than just this particular aspect of election financing. Indeed, Alberta would most likely say goodbye to the ban on corporate and union donations implemented by the NDP Government of Premier Rachel Notley. This would certainly not be out of character with the self-interest, arrogance and entitlement evident in the Wildrose memo.

The other alternative, the memo goes on, would be to “transfer the CA’s assets to the Wildrose Party and de-register the Wildrose CA.”

“It is also possible that in time the UCP would be able to attain such financial strength that it could afford to transfer a like amount of cash to the UCP CA in that constituency,” this section of the memo says. “There could be no guarantee of that, however, given that the UCP will need all of its money for the next two years to prepare for and run a general election campaign.”

In fact, as the memorandum then indicates, the party has in mind using both stratagems, depending on which makes the most financial sense in the circumstances. “The first course above may be more suitable for Wildrose CAs with larger net assets; the second course may be more suitable for CAs with little or no assets.”

The memorandum closes by urging Wildrose Party members to ratify the agreement in principle with Jason Kenney’s PCs on July 22. Wildrose Leader Brian Jean’s name does not appear on the email. Instead, the memorandum is attributed to James Cole, the party’s treasurer, and Brandon Swertz, its fund-raising VP. Both were Wildrose representatives on the parties’ unity discussion group.

One wonders what Revenue Canada, which administers this provincial tax break, would have to say about this. Deductions for political donations are designed not merely to support the democratic process in Canada, but to ensure that money donated by Canadians goes to political parties those donors wish to support.

Many contributors to the Wildrose and PC parties would not want to see their contributions go either to the other party, or a party dominated by members of another group with which they profoundly disagree. Many Canadians would argue that what is discussed in the Wildrose memo would be a serious misapplication of the federal government’s policy on political deductions. And – who knows? – Ottawa might have something to say about that, being concerned with the rule of law and the like.

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  1. So their plan is to turn Alberta back into the Banana Republic it was before we kicked their sorry asses to the curb? That’s hilarity at its finest! How much more arrogant can they be? Oh, right, they have Pope Kenney now who has Saint Stephen’s blessing……

  2. This revelation is just jaw-dropping. And yet, no apparent news reports in any of the Postmedia publications thus far. Great work David Climenhaga in exposing this nefarious little plan!

    I suspect when mainstream voters eventually hear about this surreptitious effort to undermine democracy, there will be a price to pay at the polls for the merged UCP (if it actually happens). This proposed action mirrors the underhanded deals woven with precision-like stealth by former PC governments. This reeks of “back-to-the-future” conservatism and knowing that Kenney and Jean approve is all the more appalling and nauseating.

  3. No worries, Conservatives appear not to be bound by the law – the will just rip up or change all the NDP laws. What’s this? This was a PC law? Oh crap. Well change it anyways if it doesn’t suit us.

    Perhaps the letter would have been clearer if was written with the above explanatory comments. Wildrose seems to already be picking up some of the old PC arrrogance and disregard for their own election finance laws. Perhaps this means the merger will go well. As they say, fools seldom differ.

  4. I don’t expect it to be easy, even for a united “conservative”(tm) party, to beat Rachel– Jason is a real dybbuk, and Brian is not too bright; the leadership contest won’t be easy, and neither will the policy decisions they need to make. That they won’t have legit access to the two current parties’ money is just icing on the cake.

  5. This absolute certainty of electoral success among the UCP constituent parts, their Postmedia enablers, and their supporters could actually be a good thing. As several recent high profile political contests have indicated, hubris goes before an election loss – a close loss to be sure, but a loss nonetheless. Indeed, it is this same type of PC-WR hubris that got the NDP elected.

  6. And we thought the Conservatives had changed after their election defeat.

    Same old same old. Taking care of themselves and their supporters has always been and is still now paramount.

    What is breathtaking is that they boast about it publicly. Clearly, they need more time in the corner and perhaps an entirely new leadership team. Oops…they just got it I guess. More of the same old same old.

  7. While I would love it if David were correct with regards to the CRA, I fear he may not be. As a luddite who still fills out the paper forms, the only place you can claim a provincial tax credit is on the provincial tax form. This form, I assume, is prepared by the province, and the CRA just acts as a collector for the province. Therefore, I suspect the CRA would be obligated to respect any legally passed Alberta law, including the nasty one proposed.

    Sadly, if the UCP does get elected, and carry through with this plan, I suspect it won’t even make the top ten list of the most egregious things they do.

  8. When Ralph Klein was still Premier they brought in a law that made it illegal for a government to run a deficit. Then along came Alison Redford and her government repealed the law saying it was fine for a government to go into debt. Then after Premier Notley was elected the NDP government brought in a law that debt would not exceed 15% of GDP and in a short period of time they repealed that law because they could see they were going to break it! We are now on track for 70 billion dollars of accumulated government debt by 2020 and your lighting your hair on fire over this? You need to get your priorities straight.

    1. Speaking of priorities, we have a warming planet that could severely curtail all our economies, not the least Alberta’s which is already being negatively affected by investments in alternative energy in the economic powerhouses of the world. I think that dwarfs even the deficit but our conservative friends in Alberta are going out of their way to ignore it.

      1. Actually Expat I would say the fact that the USA has more than doubled it’s daily oil production since 2008 and by the end of 2017 will be producing very close to 10 million barrels of oil per day. This has changed the world oil demand equation. Also interesting to note everyone’s environmental hero President Obama was in power during this period of oil production growth. I will agree that the continued affordability of oil will have far reaching implications for the Alberta government’s future revenue.

    2. Ralph Klein’s “debt free” aporoach was on the backs of our schools, hospitals, municipal infrustructure… Is your memory so short? Bloody boarded up windows at schools (no $ to replace?) Impossible classroom sizes. Years long waiting lists for surgeries… loss of our best doctors and nurses…crumbling infrustructure that we are having to incur terrible debt to replace now (you know when you turn on your taps and expect drinking water? Or flush your toilet and trust it goes away?) Debt free is great but not like that. We are still paying and paying for that idiocy.

    3. Some facts from RBC’s ‘canadian federal and provincial fiscal tables’ document, published Apr 27, 2017:

      -Alberta has the lowest net debt to gdp ratio of the provinces, by a significant margin
      -Alberta has the lowest net debt per capita of all the provinces, beating BC (second lowest) by around 6000/capita
      We also have the lowest ‘program expenses per capita’.

      Show me an example of a modern, functional economy with reasonable levels of citizen services which doesn’t run deficits.

      Don’t listen to the scare tactics of RW politicians, bringing out the boogieman of Deficit Spending. They have only one goal in mind: winning elections and helping their corporate masters.

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