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.”
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
“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.
“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.