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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

flap flap flap.

The adventures of Honest Ed continue...

EDMONTON -- Premier Ed Stelmach admitted Monday that "overzealous" organizers for his Conservative leadership bid wrongly solicited a $10,000 cheque from a municipal garbage agency, money his campaign returned after he won the race.

The premier said the donation last summer from Beaver Regional Waste Management Service's Commission was legal but clearly unethical, though the Tofield-area body's records show the cheque was only returned a day before Stelmach's campaign had officially cleared its debt in February.

It's the second time Stelmach has blamed his campaigners for questionable practices, months after public outcry forced him to cancel a $5,000-a-ticket fundraising reception billed as a chance to have a private audience with Alberta's top politician.

Liberal Leader Kevin Taft, who made public the $10,000 donation in the legislature Monday, accused Stelmach of developing a "conscience of convenience" once the leader had a campaign surplus and knew his finances faced more public scrutiny.

"It was only after they began to feel they would be watched that they developed a conscience and refunded the money," Taft told reporters.
And yet some people will tell me that donations to leadership races have no business being public.

I'm of the belief that there should be much more accoutability through involvement by Elections Alberta in internal party financial and fundraising rules similar to those of Elections Canada.

Can you imagine an Alberta where an end would be put to massive secret and loophole backdoor out-of-province political donations?


UPDATE: Calgary Grit's take on Stelmach's ""The donation might have been legal, it certainly was not ethical." comment.


James L. said...

You know, back in the good ol' days, before George W. Bush, there was this quaint thing called "executive accountability" and "the buck stops here". Stelmach has to get his own house in order.

Kuri said...

I'd rather imagine one with no corporate donations, too. That's a rather notable absence in your post.

daveberta said...

Good point, Kuri. I'm actually not sure why I didn't include that one. What do you think about setting up a system similar to the Federal system - limited corporate/union and individual donations with a federal funding system? It would probably make the the funding of Alberta political parties alot more equitable.

Bill Given said...

The only thing about a public election finance system (as is set up federally) is that it is biased in favour of parties and against independants. A candidate for a party will see money for each vote they receive ($1.50 last election?) .. that money goes into the party coffers to act as a warchest for the next election. As an independant that money, plus any surplus in fundraising goes back to the federal government. As an independant who came in second and had about 10 000 votes that could have made a big difference if I choose to run again. Any public finance system should allow for credible candidates who choose to run without the backing of a party.

Kuri said...

The federal system would be a big improvement, but IIRC, Manitoba and Quebec have completely banned corporate and union donations, while also limiting individual donations. I think that's a better model to follow.

Joe said...

Taft is on pretty shaky grounds on this considering his party accepted a donation from the City of St. Albert. That too was a donation from the taxpayers. In that case, charges were even recommended.

Anonymous said...

The bigger story in the St. Albert fiasco was that the donation was given by St. Albert Mayor Paul Chalifoux - who is now running for the PC nomination in St. Albert. Though it was public funds (which should not be used as political donations under any circumstance) it was never clear whether it was solicited or not - the Stelmach $10,000 was clearly solicited.

Joe said...

I agree that the Paul Chalifoux connection is interesting, however...

Solicited or not makes no difference. The Liberals should have refused the donation right away, instead of waiting for an investigation.

It's not that hard to figure out that a cheque marked "City of St. Albert" isn't a valid political donation.

Anonymous said...

Copied response to joe's identical question on CalgaryGrit's blog:

Joe said

“Heck, in that case, Elections Alberta recommended charges. More than you can say about the Tories.”

I’m glad that joe brought it to my attention. It’s about $700 paid for two dinner tickets. Nothing secret here! Edmonton Sun January 26, 2007

‘Liberal party executive director Kieran Leblanc said she believes the complaint relates to the purchase of two tickets to the Liberal leader's dinner in 2005.
Leblanc said city officials purchased the pair of tickets for $700 and she issued a tax receipt for $650, not realizing they were prohibited from donating.”

joe failed to mention that Alberta Justice refused to fail charges against St Albert. Edmonton Journal May 27

‘Deputy Electoral Officer Bill Sage said the Liberal party returned the donation to the City of St. Albert and the city has instituted a new policy to prevent future violations.
Alberta's chief electoral officer had recommended charges be laid in the case, but didn't make the same recommendation in another case involving the reporting of financial information by the Alberta PC Association because his department didn't notice the problem for years, Sage said.
The case involved a secret party fund containing political donations the party received before the province passed a law on disclosure of election contributions. The new law allowed the Tory party to keep the amount secret, but required it to report transactions annually to the chief electoral officer.
But when Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald tried to view the public records last fall, he discovered the PC Association hadn't reported on the fund in nearly two decades. Sage said the last letter on file was dated March 5, 1987.’

Ohhh! Beware of Alberta conservatives who speak about honesty and justice. The province has become the breeding ground for the righteous who believes that the rules don’t apply to them.

qrs said...

From 630 CHED -

"No guidelines given to campaign volunteers
Jun, 07 2007 - 5:10 AM

EDMONTON/630 CHED - Red faces all around in the Premiers office this morning. Days after the Stelmach camp admitted to spending a $10,000 donation from a public body before refunding it upon further review, there are some new details to consider.

David Sands is a spokesman with the premiers office, and he says no guidelines were given to volunteers on the campaign trail for what should be considered an ethical donation. The only thing they were told is to flag any donations over $10,000.

Liberal Leader Kevin Taft calls it "incredible" and says that should frighten Alberta voters because it means potentially dozens of volunteers were making up their own minds on what should or shouldn't be acceptable to the premier."

Joe said...

Honestly anon, I don't get your point.

If it's unethical to accept donations from 'the taxpayer' why did the Liberals accept the St. Albert donation? What does the fact it was from a dinner have anything to do with the matter?

What does the amount matter? Are you saying it's ok to accept taxpayer dollars under a certain amount?

The Tory actions stink. The Liberal actions stink too.

popsicle said...

typical ndp-type sensationalizing. Calm down little joe.

Charges were recommended against the City of St. Albert, NOT the Alberta Liberals. Read the documents.

say_no_to_kevin_daft said...

Charges were recommended against the organization that offered the money, but not the group that took it? Keep in mind that the Liberals are the ones crying for new electoral financing rules, so they new damn well they were taking money that was, at best, "not quite right".

Kevin Daft is a terrible leader and the Alberta Liberals are a directionless party. After next year's provincial election, they will be returned to the third party status that Liberals hold in every other Western province.

The NDP are the only ones providing truly effective opposition to Ed Stelmach's broken agenda. In 2008, vote NDP for a better Alberta.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the decision by the Stelmach campaign to accept the donation from the Beaver River Regional Waste Management Services Commission was the height of stupidity. I don't think it was done deliberately, but my god couldn't the fundraisers see the bad optics of this from a mile away. And David Sands comment that volunteers were given no directions as to guidelines was almost as stupid as the act itself. Talk about digging your self a deeper hole.

I am a loyal PC supporter, but I know that there are key political staff around the Premier, who worked on the leadership, who should do the honourable thing over the summer months and move on.

The Premier is intelligent and a very engaging individual-- he is being hurt by advisors who don't understand politics, don't understand issues management and communications, don't understand strategy, don't use polls strategically to develop key messages around issues, don't do opp research, and have no clue when it comes to policy development, particularly the development of a long-term vision.

This is not rocket science. These key political advisors should do the honourable thing and let the Premier bring in a team that knows what they are doing.

I believe that the best things that could happen to the government is to lose Elbow in a landslide. It would serve as a badly needed wakeup call.