Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is pushing back on Opposition NDP claims his new referendum bill is a backdoor attempt to game these votes for partisan gain while introducing big money back into politics. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton, on March 20, 2020.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is pushing back on Opposition NDP claims that his new referendum bill is a backdoor attempt to unfairly influence debate during elections and bring big money back into politics.

“I just find it completely bizarre that anyone would characterize this [bill] as being undemocratic or, as the Opposition has said, a power grab, when in fact this is the exact opposite,” Mr. Kenney said Wednesday.

“This is not aggregating power to the government, but giving power to the people. There is nothing more democratic than this.”

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Kenney made the comments a day after his government introduced the referendum bill along with legislation to amend Senator-in-waiting elections.

He has already promised referendums to get a mandate to fight with Ottawa over changes to equalization payments and potentially one if his government decides it makes financial sense to abandon the Canada Pension Plan.

The bill would give cabinet the power to determine which issues could go to vote, how the question would be worded, when the votes would be held and whether the results would be binding.

The bill also proposes to allow third-party advertisers to spend up to $500,000 to influence public opinion on the issue at hand. Those advertisers would only have to file audited financial statements if they spend more than $350,000.

Currently, third-party advertisers can spend only $150,000 during a provincial election campaign.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the $500,000 ceiling along with reporting exemptions below $350,000 means deep pockets can be used to sway voter opinion, something her government took out while it was in power by lowering contribution limits.

Ms. Notley said the bill clears the way for Mr. Kenney to abuse it.

Story continues below advertisement

“He will be able to take an issue right out of the UCP campaign strategy book and invite literally hundreds of third-party organizations to spend half-a-million dollars each on those issues, potentially during the [provincial] election campaign,” she said.

“If they’re supersneaky, they can get away without filing auditable [financial] reports if they only spend $349,000 each.

“This is classic American-style campaigning, corrupting our system.”

Mr. Kenney disagreed, saying Alberta’s referendum bill is similar to rules in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and other jurisdictions.

He challenged Ms. Notley’s assertion that $500,000 is excessive, adding that modern campaigns are expensive.

“While it is legitimate to have a spending limit, it has to be a reasonable limit,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“You could not have a real democratic debate on an important issue through a referendum campaign if the limit were five, 10, 50,000 dollars. Groups could not effectively communicate with millions of Albertans.”

He said the bill is part of broader democratic reform agenda, which will include coming citizen-initiated referendums and recall legislation later this year.

Mr. Kenney also accused the NDP of hypocrisy, wanting big money out of politics but being okay with millions of dollars being spent on third party-advertising by its union supporters.

“That’s just a loophole, where in this case one party is using an affiliate to do its advertising for them,” Mr. Kenney said.

Mr. Kenney said his government will introduce legislation this fall banning formal affiliates of registered political parties from operating as third-party advertisers.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies