Liberals question PC adherence to leadership campaign donation rules in the Legislature

Liberals Raj Sherman and Hugh MacDonald questioned the Redford government in the legislature Tuesday over the "generous" donations party leadership candidates received during last year's contest, noting that one donor made a donation of $100,000 to three of the candidates.

Liberal Leader Sherman noted the Southern family donated $128,000 to various candidates through the ATCO group of companies they control.

"Given that the ATCO Group of companies are such large players in the electricity market ... how can you claim that accepting 128 grand does not jeopardize the independence of the government's policy on electricity deregulation, which ultimately is forcing Albertans to pay higher bills?" he asked Premier Alison Redford.

Sherman noted that TransAlta also donated a total of $20,000 to the campaigns.

"Whose interests are this premier and this government really serving?" he asked in Question Period. "Those who fund you, or those who elect you?"

Redford responded that an independent panel made recommendations to the government with respect to its decision to proceed with two new high voltage lines between Edmonton and Calgary, supported by the Alberta Utilities Commission and the Alberta Electric System Operator.

MacDonald noted that one leadership candidate, deputy premier Doug Horner received $35,000 from one donor, which he said was $5,000 in excess of the limit placed by the Progressive Conservative party on donations. He also noted that Horner received money orders worth $15,000 from RBC Trust in the Bahamas, which may violate a rule about soliciting donations from out of province.

Redford refused to confirm the allegations.

"This is not part of what I would consider to be appropriate business for this House," she said.

MacDonald continued to press the government for answers in a Member's Statement following Question Period.

He pointed out that Cathy Roozen, interim chair of the Alberta Health Services Board, donated $5,000 to the premier's leadership campaign

"You have land developers. You have liquor store owners. You have casino operators, energy companies, law firms. They're all part of the list."

MacDonald invited Albertans to check out the donors at .

"Do we need new laws for leadership campaigns?" he asked. "Is the generous cap of $30,000 too high? Should democracy be sold to the highest bidder?"

MacDonald concluded by saying democracy is not for sale at any price.

Former cabinet minister Gary Mar was the high roller in the race to become premier last year, spending almost $2.7 million according to Progressive Conservative leadership race financial documents released by the party last Friday.

Mar's leadership campaign also appears to be the only one of the six camps to spend more than they took in, with a $262,000 deficiency of revenue over expenses, according to the documents. However, candidate Rick Orman declined to disclose his leadership race financial documents and in doing so, forfeit his $15,000 deposit to the PC party.

The campaign for Redford, who won the leadership race and became premier last October, spent more than $1.3 million on her push, but ended the race with a $21,000 surplus, according to the documents posted online.

Horner, who made it to the top three, spent more than $1.2 million on his leadership campaign. His camp ended the race with an $8,000 surplus.

Energy Minister Ted Morton, who finished fourth in the contest, spent $977,238 but had the biggest cushion of all the candidates — with almost $116,000 left over.

Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, who finished last in the race, spent the least money among the six candidates at just over $164,400. He too has a $10,000 surplus.

Calgary Herald, Wed Mar 14 2012

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