Alberta needs to close “loopholes” in its election laws in order to repair the province’s reputation, opposition parties charged Monday after reports of hefty donations to the Tories attributed to Edmonton billionaire Daryl Katz, his family and business associates.
The Wildrose Party led the challenge to the governing Progressive Conservatives during Question Period Monday to overhaul its campaign financing legislation in light of Elections Alberta records released last week that show almost $300,000 of about $1.5-million raised by the PCs came from Mr. Katz, his immediate family, his senior executives and their companies.
A source connected to the campaign told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Katz gave the party a single cheque for $430,000 and that this amount was divided among many donors for receipt purposes later.
“Alberta’s reputation has been damaged,” Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith told the legislature. She called the existing law “deeply flawed.”
“When will the government fix it?” said Ms. Smith, who also called on the governing party to release copies of the cheques it received and deposit slips.
Mr. Katz, who made his fortune through his Rexall drugstores and real estate, is worth more than $3-billion. He owns the Edmonton Oilers, his hometown hockey team, and is trying to reach an agreement with the city government on a deal to build a new hockey arena. That arrangement has in past included a $100-million injection from the province although Premier Alison Redford has maintained there would be no provincial cash dedicated to the arena.
The Katz Group has declined requests for comment.
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman also used Question Period Monday to urge for campaign finance reform including placing hard limits on contributions and closing “loopholes.”
“Elections finance laws leave holes you can drive a truck through,” he said.
In response, government members maintained that the PCs followed to rules and reiterated the party’s co-operation with Elections Alberta, which has been asked to investigate. The PCs also said some opposition parties have accepted significant funding from single sources, and that previously promised elections reforms would be tabled within the next two weeks.
However, Justice Minister Jonathan Denis did not outline what the new laws would look like.
When asked if the Katz-related donations would influence funding a new downtown hockey arena, several cabinet ministers maintained the province’s opposition to taxpayer funding of the project and have previously turned down a casino licence application.
“Donations do not impact government policy,” Finance Minister Doug Horner said.
He took exception to accusations that a deal had been struck behind closed doors.
“Next they will probably be suggesting that I was at the grassy knoll when JFK was assassinated,” he said.