Alberta Premier Alison Redford is further distancing herself from a fundraising controversy, arguing it is not her place to meddle in internal Progressive Conservative Party affairs.
Ms. Redford on Friday said she has not checked to see whether billionaire Daryl Katz wrote a single cheque for $430,000 as the spring election drew to a close and the ruling party was short on cash. Alberta’s chief electoral officer is investigating the controversy and Ms. Redford has promised to make his report public.
The Globe and Mail last month reported that Mr. Katz wrote one cheque for $430,000 to help the PCs fend off the Wildrose Party. The amount, nearly one-third of the PCs’ total campaign cash, was then divided up among people and organizations close to Mr. Katz for receipt purposes. Campaign donations are limited to $30,000 per person in Alberta.
When asked why she has not looked for the cheque, Ms. Redford said: “Because I don’t run the Progressive Conservative Party. Although I am the leader of the party, there is an administrative process in place. There are people who do that work and it is important for the chief electoral officer to be able to deal with those people, to ensure that they are getting the full facts.”
In response to a question on whether high-ranking party officials and those involved with party finances have looked, she added: “I think you should ask them. I have not engaged in these conversations, nor will I.”
The Katz donor investigation has consumed the fall sitting of the Legislature, and the Speaker has now banned further questions from the Opposition about it because rules prohibit discussing internal party matters. All sides of the house have agreed to a moratorium on questions. The PC party is co-operating with the probe.
Mr. Katz owns the Edmonton Oilers and is pushing for the city to help fund a new $450-million arena. Ms. Redford has said she is against directly funding the project, although in March she said it is “fine with us” if cities use cash from the province earmarked for infrastructure to help build the arena. Ms. Redford declined an interview with The Globe and Mail in the month before her party’s list of donors was made public through Elections Alberta disclosure last week. But the Premier’s Office confirmed at the time that she spoke with Mr. Katz about his contribution to the Tory campaign.
“Mr. Katz was one of the individuals that the Premier called,” Jay O’Neill, a spokesman for Ms. Redford, said in an e-mail. “She thanked him for his donation of $30,000. Mr. Katz raised the issue of the arena, but as I said earlier, [the] Premier’s position on using taxpayer dollars to fund professional sports arenas has not changed.”
On Friday, however, Ms. Redford said she could not remember if she called Mr. Katz to thank him.
“I think after the election I probably made about 50 calls to people who were contributors,” she told reporters after a luncheon in Calgary. “I think he was on the list. I don’t recall a conversation, but he probably was.”
She said she did not call Mr. Katz’s wife or others associated with Rexall, the pharmacy chain he founded. Ms. Redford added: “I made a number of calls, and I can’t recall right now, but from my perspective, there were probably many people who did give us funds that I didn’t call, and there were probably many that I did.”
A spokesman for Mr. Katz declined to comment.