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Politics Alberta officials to investigate Oilers owner’s donation to Tories

Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, left, speaks with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during a game between the Oilers and the Atlanta Thrashers in February, 2011.

JOHN ULAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Alberta's Chief Electoral Officer will investigate a donation made by billionaire Daryl Katz to Alberta's governing Progressive Conservative Party.

The announcement, made Tuesday, comes after a Globe and Mail report that the drugstore mogul and Edmonton Oilers owner wrote the PCs a single cheque for $430,000, which was then divided among several entities for receipt purposes. Alberta caps individual donations at $30,000.

Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim decided "sufficient concern with respect to the source of funds reported to our office as political contributions has been raised in complaints filed with our office to merit an investigation," spokesman Drew Westwater said in an e-mail. Mr. Fjeldheim will be "initiating a full investigation of this matter shortly" and expects the PCs and donors to co-operate.

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"It is his belief that we should receive full co-operation of all parties concerned in order to expedite this investigation and achieve an early resolution in accordance with the provisions of the [law]," Mr. Westwater said.

Provincial law, however, limits what parts of an investigation the Chief Electoral Officer is required or even allowed to make public. He had previously declined to say whether he'd look into it.

Political parties in the province don't submit cheques to Elections Alberta, only receipts issued to individuals. Elections Alberta records released last week show almost $300,000 of about $1.5-million raised by the PCs during this year's spring election 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.

The PCs, who have been under fire in the legislature over the massive donation, haven't released any information, saying it's up to Mr. Fjeldheim to investigate the matter.

"That's up to the Chief Electoral Officer to determine if the rules were followed. That's not up to me. Our members have all followed the rules. I'm not aware of any breach of those rules," Finance Minister Doug Horner said Tuesday.

Mr. Katz, who made his fortune through his Rexall drugstores and real estate, is worth more than $3-billion. He's trying to reach an agreement with the city government on a deal to build a new hockey arena. The province has repeatedly said it won't "directly" fund an arena.

The Katz Group has declined requests for comment.

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