Opposition parties say they're not part of illegal donations probe

Some funds are voluntarily being returned

Alberta's opposition parties say they aren't under investigation in a controversy over illegal donations that has put the governing Progressive Conservatives under the scrutiny of the province's chief electoral officer.

Elections Alberta said in a news release this week it has 53 open investigations related to allegations of donations to political parties and constituency associations from "prohibited corporations" - municipalities, school boards and other public bodies.

The statement said all political entities and prohibited corporations under investigation have been contacted by Elections Alberta.

While the cases that have been the subject of public complaint all involve the Tories, Elections Alberta spokesman Drew Westwater told the Herald the PCs are not the only party with files under review.

However, the Wildrose Party, Liberals, NDP and Alberta Party all say they aren't under investigation.

Wildrose Party executive director Shayne Saskiw said the party has not been notified by Elections Alberta that itself or any of its constituency associations are under investigation in relation to the issue of illegal donations.

"There's nothing on contributions that Elections Alberta has informed us about," he said.

Likewise, NDP provincial secretary Brian Stokes said his party has had no contact with Elections Alberta on the issue. He noted the NDP does not take contributions at all through its constituency associations.

The Liberals also aren't under investigation, said party Leader Raj Sherman.

"I have no knowledge of it. If I have knowledge of any donations, they should be returned . . . I am not aware of any such case," he said.

Elections Alberta has so far not directed any party or constituency association to return funds, imposed administrative penalties on any prohibited corporations or referred any cases for prosecution.

However, the agency said some donations are already being voluntarily returned.

The PC party said this week it will return money donated by Calgary Laboratory Services, a subsidiary of Alberta Health Services.

AHS said it has completed a review and the donations made by CLS were the only political contributions by the superboard or one of its subsidiaries since the superboard's founding in 2008.

Since the issue surfaced last fall, prompting a rash of investigations to be launched, Elections Alberta has closed eight files where no illegal contributions were made.

Calgary Herald, Wed Mar 8 2012
Byline: James Wood with files from Darcy Henton

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