The price to take over Canada's longest-running political dynasty is going up, as candidates for Alberta's Progressive Conservative leadership will need to front $40,000 apiece to join the race.
The higher fee comes as part of a new set of campaign-financing rules agreed to over the weekend by PC Party executives, aimed at making the contest more transparent. The rules set a cap on donations and require candidates to release the names of major donors.
Such regulations are a first for the party and Alberta otherwise has no legislation governing fundraising and spending in leadership races.
"In the last leadership race, there were a lot of questions from people inside and outside our party, saying 'Why aren't you disclosing that?" party president Bill Smith told The Globe and Mail.
"One of the issues we ran into sometimes is there was no expectation when people donated that their name was going to be disclosed. … This way, they know going in that there's going to be disclosure. They understand that. We strive to be open and transparent."
Party officials say the fee, which was $15,000 in the last race, is used to cover party costs incurred as part of the race, but observers suggest it's also designed to prevent candidates from entering on a whim.
The new rules, however, are somewhat toothless. Of the new $40,000 fee, $15,000 is returned to a candidate once they've completed their paperwork, an audit and followed all the rules. A candidate could potentially sacrifice the $15,000 to skirt the regulations, though would likely suffer a political backlash for doing so.
"We expect that all of the candidates will welcome the new rules," Mr. Smith said.
Donations are now limited to $30,000 per person or corporation, and will require the disclosure of the names of every person and corporation to donate more than $375, in step with provincial election laws governing the parties themselves.
Leadership candidate Alison Redford had been a vocal proponent of increased financial transparency in the PC race, and has called for rules to be put into law for all parties.
"We had made a commitment to do this anyway, but it's important to have rules in place so that we're making everyone accountable," Ms. Redford said Monday, adding: "At the end of the day, it's about the outcome, and the outcome is: Albertans want to know who has been financing campaigns for political leaders. And the more transparency, the better."
The finance rules are the latest development in what will be a marathon race, though one that has slowed to a crawl as of late. Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach announced in late January he will resign, but hasn't yet done so, and the legislature is still in session, handcuffing candidates' ability to campaign.
And, amid it all, the federal election race is putting a squeeze on campaign staff and media attention, throwing campaigns into low gear for the meantime.
"There's some divided attention, for sure," said Sam Armstrong, a veteran political organizer who has worked with the Harper Conservatives and is now manager of former finance minister Ted Morton's leadership campaign.
"Regardless, the federal election would have thrown a little bit of a curve ball into it, but the real issue [delaying the race's start]is the legislature being in session."
The federal race is not having an effect, however, on fundraising, despite donors being tapped for donations by both levels of government. Candidates say they haven't noticed any case where federal donations have cost them a donation.
The federal limit is $1,100, a figure "so low that it should have virtually no effect on the provincial leadership race," said David Stewart, head of the University of Calgary's political-cience department.