May 7, 2013 •
Katz Group and Edmonton Oilers owner had been under fire for $430,000 bundled contribution
Elections Alberta and its Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim have spoken on the Daryl Katz contribution scandal and they believe there was no scandal at all. Daryl Katz, chairman and CEO of The Katz Group and the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers, has been under fire recently after a contribution of $430,000 was delivered to the Alberta Progressive Conservative party from his company last year.
Under Alberta laws, a corporation or individual is only allowed to contribute $30,000 to a political party during a campaign period. However, Fjeldheim ruled the contribution to be legal because the corporation simply collected contributions from individual donors and gave a bundled contribution of $430,000. Seventeen members of the company all contributed no more than the maximum $30,000 to the entire contribution and every person reimbursed the corporation.
In his ruling, Fjeldheim said, “There was no breach [of the contribution laws] because there was clear identification of the funds connected with the actual contributors and each contribution respected the $30,000 limit. Without more, a single payment of $430,000 would have exceeded the limit for a single contribution. However, the investigation revealed that this was not a single contribution of $430,000.”
There is concern within the province this ruling is a sign of things to come and Canadian elections could become similar to the money-happy American way.
However, Alberta Premier Alison Redford said she will not be looking to change the election laws. “What has been put in place is entirely appropriate.”
Not everyone agrees though. York University election financing expert Robert MacDermid said, “It would be simply a license to allow people to give money without disclosing the truth about it. When you have a system that doesn’t control disclosure adequately, when there are holes where people can give significant sums of money and not have to disclose their true identity…that absence of openness and disclosure really does make people question politicians.”
While the next Alberta election is not until 2016, this campaign finance issue is sure to be among the biggest at the time.