Alberta Politics
The Statutes of Alberta (Photo: Alberta Provincial Archives).

NDP official demands ‘substantive penalties’ for ‘severe and wilful violations’ of election finance law by auto dealers’ PAC

Posted on October 24, 2018, 1:39 am
6 mins

Shaping Alberta’s Future, the Political Action Committee set up to help elect a United Conservative Party government led by Jason Kenney, is operating in open defiance of Alberta’s election financing laws, the Alberta NDP’s provincial secretary says in a letter to the Election Commissioner of Alberta.

NDP Povincial Secretary Roari Richardson requested Lorne Gibson immediately commence an investigation “into serious violations of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act that I believe are being committed by Jason Kenney, the United Conservative Party, a third-party Political Action Committee called ‘Shaping Alberta’s Future’, and a third-party association, the Motor Dealers’ Association of Alberta.”

Alberta NDP Party Provincial Secretary Roari Richardson (Photo: Facebook).

Citing material from the “information for donors” section of the Shaping Alberta’s Future website, Mr. Richardson’s letter argues plans of the PAC include activities that properly can only be conducted by political parties. These include, he wrote:

  • Opposition research about NDP candidates
  • Political organizing that includes “constituency work”
  • Volunteer engagement
  • Canvassing, including door knocking, telephoning and literature.

“They explicitly describe financial contributions to their PAC as a way to avoid election financing rules that restrict large individual and corporate donations to political parties,” the senior NDP party official stated in his letter. The letter quotes statements Mr. Richardson said indicate the PAC intends to:

  • Not disclose some contributions to Elections Alberta as required by law
  • Accept donations from corporations, which is illegal for political parties in Alberta
  • Ignore the law’s donation limit for registered political parties
  • Use 100 per cent of the donations it receives to promote one political party, Mr. Kenney’s UCP

Elections Commissioner Lorne Gibson (Photo: Office of the Elections Commissioner).

“This conduct is a clear violation of the law,” Mr. Richardson states, citing Section 41.41 of the Act, which outlines the activities third parties may not engage in to support the work of registered parties, registered candidates, registered nomination contestants, or registered leadership contestants.

“The activities this PAC is conducting are all either political advertising and subject to disclosure or are activities to support the work of a registered party that are prohibited,” the letter continues. The activities noted in the letter are being conducted “to circumvent party expense and contribution rules and are therefore also prohibited,” Mr. Richardson’s letter says.

“This PAC is raising and spending money to engage in the core business of a political party,” the letter adds. “Repeatedly they detail how they will undertake such work ‘to promote Jason Kenney and the United Conservative party’ but without following the rules that apply to Jason Kenney and the UCP.”

Based on the contents of the letter to members of the Motor Dealers Association, which was reported in this space yesterday, Mr. Richardson’s letter also alleges Mr. Kenney and the UCP colluded with the PAC and the car dealers’ group to violate the Act.

United Conservative Party Opposition leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“This call for contributions to support the UCP was done at Mr. Kenney’s request and deliberately to circumvent the election financing rules by funnelling money through a third-party PAC – money that could not be donated directly to the UCP by an association like the MDA or its corporate members, and that would otherwise violate the individual contribution limits,” the letter states.

Mr. Richardson noted that to his knowledge the Motor Dealers Association is not registered as a third-party advertiser to conduct political advertising, and concludes based on its materials that the group intends to collect and spend in excess of the $1,000 threshold set out in the Act.

He signs off with the argument the activities of Shaping Alberta’s Future are in violation not only of Section 41.41, but Sections 15 (which deals with the responsibilities of contributors) and 16 (which restricts political donations to persons residing in Alberta).

He argued the activities he outlines are not minor or innocent errors, but “are severe and wilful violations, designed to give the UCP a real financial advantage including large contributions from corporate entities.”

He calls on Mr. Gibson to seek “substantive penalties, sufficient to provide real deterrence and ensure that these unlawful activities are not permitted to interfere with the electoral process.”

The Election Commissioner is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. The Election Commissioner is responsible for ensuring compliance with and enforcing the Election Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. Mr. Gibson, who a decade ago served as Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer, was appointed Election Commissioner in May.

11 Comments to: NDP official demands ‘substantive penalties’ for ‘severe and wilful violations’ of election finance law by auto dealers’ PAC

  1. J.E. Molnar

    October 24th, 2018

    It’s disturbing that Albertans have to relive the dark underbelly of Conservatives behaving badly so soon. Denying “pay for play” when you’re caught red-handed speaks to the lack of respect Kenney and the UCP have for voters.

    If 44 years of past Conservative rule has taught voters anything, it’s that no degree of subterfuge, no measure of misdirection and no level of falsehood will be spared by the UCP to gaslight Alberta voters. It’s not about service to Albertans—it’s about a sleazy, power grab by megalomaniac Jason Kenney—and that’s the worst kind of politician.

    Reply
  2. David

    October 24th, 2018

    I remember the Wildrose often raising the issue of questionable election finance activities involving the previous government. If they were still around, I suspect they would find this distasteful too, but of course they are not around now and the grassroots have also largely been silenced now. This seems clearly an effort to subvert the rules to limit the influence of those with money. I don’t think it is just a coincidence that the auto dealers met with Kenney and after that started up a PAC to support him and started raising money for it.

    The UCP seems to be quickly going in the direction of its predecessor, which did so many questionable things to solicit and raise political contributions. I think the cozy relationship between that party and its corporate donors was one thing that led Albertans to realize that party was more interested in doing what its large corporate donors wanted, than in what was best for Alberta. One would have hoped the UCP had learned something from its predecessors past mistakes, but unfortunately history seems to be repeating itself.

    Reply
  3. Chuckstraight

    October 24th, 2018

    Used to call it a “carlot coalition” in BC when many Socreds were car dealers.

    Reply
  4. Scotty on Denman

    October 24th, 2018

    The political right has issued itself a self-righteous-right-to-do-wrong-for-self-righteousness’-sake card. Ethics? No problem! The self-professed conservers of dumbocracy and freedumb have passed the Gecko Law secretly among its membergrip. They’re going to be the government, anyway, they think, so they may’s well start cheating-up some dough right now. If it wasn’t such a righteous thing to do, Jason Kekenney wouldn’t have risked his hubris by swaggering his clever ploy all over town. Funding rules? Phft! Once JK’s rehitches his pony to the front of his wagon, he’ll fix that! Hands up, Socialists! And keep ‘em where we can see ‘em! The rest a you Albertans can put the left one down only for signing cheques and UCP memberships, and voting for the right party.

    Boy! You Albertans got it all! Reminds me of the bad old BC Liberal days when they used to laugh in citizens’ faces whenever caught red-handed. “We won so it’s okay!” Kekenney’s presumptuousness is more audacious, though: he hasn’t won yet—but it’s still ‘okay.’

    As we here in BC struggle through another cocked-up electoral reform Referendum, I keep reminding that it’s not the electoral system needs changing, it’s the negligent omission of breach-of-public-trust prosecutions, especially where they involve willful gaming of the system. It always leads to the next logical step: breaking the law. And once that’s been sanctified and we do nothing, when they come for me or you, there won’t be anyone left to help us.

    I’ve long thought that electoral cheating—for that’s what Kekenney is doing, self-licence notwithstanding—was instrumental in bringing down the HarperCons (it was the usual, self-righteousness, lies and treachery to get into office, gaming the shit out of the system, graduating to dirty tricks, then outright cheating, then, when caught, a bid to rewrite electoral law to suit themselves while spraying demagogic vitriol all over the place to obscure their perfidy). Kekenney is Harper’s disciple and his master is standing close by. He figures he can do it all again in Alberta.

    Maybe if this blatant breach of the law is nipped in the bud, Alberta won’t have to endure another neo-right nightmare. Use a sledgehammer now to prevent a billion tons of cure. Who knows: maybe the UCP can’t win without cheating.

    Reply
  5. Albertan

    October 24th, 2018

    The obvious, well financed ‘Shaping Alberta’s Future’ anti-NDP ads are already out….we just saw one on ‘CTV Calgary at Noon.’ Will independent thinking Alberta folks see through this?
    Again, being born into a right wing so-called christian Alberta family, I am well familiar with what it takes to win, even if it is shady, particularly when it comes to money and greed. These folks will probably vote for the UCP and some of them have even described this type of skulldug behavior as ‘clever.’ They actually admire it and think it’s just fine.
    I’d like to know which members of the Motor Dealers’ Association of Alberta did, not, spot $5000 toward this ‘Shaping Alberta’s Future’ affair so that we could support them.

    Reply
  6. Bob Raynard

    October 24th, 2018

    I wonder if the great lengths the MDA is going to to see Jason Kenney get elected is also showing that the carbon tax will work to reduce emissions. Are they worried about customers choosing more fuel efficient vehicles (ie less expensive) as a result of the carbon tax? That will certainly cut into their bottom line, but the population as a whole will be better off as a result.

    Reply
  7. Jeff Wedman

    October 24th, 2018

    Dave, since you’re on the topic of complaints by the NDP against the UCP, why don’t you mention the findings by the Ethics Commissioner which just came out. That wouldn’t have anything to do with the Ethics Commissioner completely clearing the UCP members and warning the NDP about frivilous and vexatious complaints. This quote is from her report.

    “As well, given that Alberta is having a general election within the next year, I want to make it clear that I do not want members filing complaints against other members for the purpose of scoring political points.”

    https://edmontonjournal.com/news/politics/ucp-leader-jason-kenney-mla-prasad-panda-cleared-in-ethics-investigation

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      October 25th, 2018

      Jeff: Usually my policy is to let contributors to the comments section say what they wish without a response from me. But since you’ve asked, I do have a few things to say about this. First off, this blog is my hobby, and I can’t cover every single story that breaks in Alberta, as much as I’d like to. I write it at night, after I get home from my day job, and often after I’ve gone to a workout at the dojo, too. I often feel it’s pretty rich when readers who disagree with me say I should have covered something they think damages the case I try to make, but kind of a backhanded compliment too. As bad as Postmedia is, nowadays, they still have more employees that AlbertaPolitics.ca, which is just me, and just-me is not getting paid for this effort. Moreover, I tend to write too much in a post, especially when I don’t have time to edit things down to size, and while I gave some thought to including a reference to the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling in this piece, I decided – reasonably, I think – it would just make the story too long. As for that decision, I don’t think Mr. Prasad has really been “cleared,” as the Edmonton Journal said, rather that the case was decided to be insignificant and that it’s likely he didn’t intend to benefit himself. Regardless, I was mildly surprised when the NDP first made the complaint because the case seemed weak. I do think it’s naive and a little silly for the Ethics Commissioner to say political parties shouldn’t take actions with political goals in mind. As for the Motor Dealers Association case, this struck me when I first read the letter as far more serious and, in my legal layperson’s opinion, almost certainly an egregious violation of the law. Anyway, I deemed it to be an appropriate topic for coverage and I still think it is. Down where the rubber meets the road, I just can’t cover every story, no matter how worthy some of them seem. I could hire a reporter or two, I suppose, but then I’d have to be nagging you-all for money like Ezra Levant! I’m not gonna do that. You’ll just have to content yourself with what I write, and the opportunity I provide readers to respond. DJC

      Reply
      • Jeff Wedman

        October 25th, 2018

        Dave, between you, I don’t generally agree with either you or Ezra, but unlike the Rebel which I never bother with, I regularly read your work because it is at least well-written and logical, even if I don’t share your end conclusions. The amount of time you volunteer to Alberta political commentary is to be commended.

        Reply
  8. Eric Bowling

    October 24th, 2018

    Serious question – when was the last time this sort of election financing scandal broke out BEFORE an election was won? Both In-and-out and the Robocall fiasco were discovered after the fact. This is the first time I can remember people caught before voters made up their mind… or am I just focus-biased?

    Reply
  9. ronmac

    October 24th, 2018

    These auto dealers must be longing for a return of the days when oil patch workers were spending half their paychecks on gas-guzzling 4×4 trucks optioned out to the hilt

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)