Wednesday, April 11, 2012

FDA Electoral Finance Findings Supported by Eastern Based Democracy Watch

Conacher's assessment of Alberta's electoral finance legislation as "lax" does not capture the urgency of the political situation in Alberta, in which minority and special interests have a strangle hold on the province. (See some evidence below based on financial figures and the linkage between government policy and special interests.) Another important consideration is that the Alberta electoral finance caps on contributions and third party spending such as $30,000 for third party spending are not reflective of Alberta's mean total income of $35,250 (Statistics Canada, 2011). Around 75 percent of Albertans cannot afford the $30,000 caps on contributions to political parties and third party expenditure. And there is no financial regulation of party leadership contests. These discrepancies are compounded by no campaign expenditure limit, whereby candidates and parties have no ceiling on the amount of the money they can raise. Further, minority and special interests through contributions to candidates and parties likely have influence on the Alberta government's policies and laws.

Conacher also raises the issue of banning corporations and trade unions from making electoral contributions. The FDA supports banning corporations and trade unions because democracy fundamentally is about the people; corporations and trade unions are about profit and shareholders and/or membership; they are not allowed to vote. The interests of legal entities are narrow and likely inconsistent with the overall public good. The Alberta NDP is the only party of the nine Alberta registered parties to support a ban on electoral contributions from Alberta corporations and trade unions. In its Province Report, the FDA found evidence that provinces which include corporations and trade unions had caps less reflective of mean total income and/or lower penalties on corporations and trade unions for electoral wrongdoing.

Alberta election finances laws among the most lax, says Democracy Watch
Calgary Herald Blogs
Wed Apr 4 2012
Section: Alberta
Byline: Darcy Henton, EDMONTON

Alberta elections finances laws are among the most lax in the country, according to Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch.

The limits are far too high and the legislation allows corporations and unions and other organizations to donate to political parties, he said.

By comparison, federal election spending limits are lower and ban corporations and unions from donating, Conacher added.

"Alberta has lots of problems," he said. "They allow corporations and unions and other organizations that don't vote to be able to use money as a means of influence and have limits that are way too high and allow money to be used as an unethical and undemocratic means of influence over parties and candidates. One can only hope they will move in a democratic direction."

Alberta allows individuals, corporations and unions to donate $15,000 in non-election years and $30,000 in election years while the limit federally is $1,200 per person. Conacher said even that level is too high and should be halved.

Alberta's limits are similar to Ontario while British Columbia has no spending limits, although the NDP has pledged to introduce them if they the next provincial election, Conacher said.

Nova Scotia and Manitoba limit donations to $5,000 and $2000 respectively, he said. Quebec was the first to ban corporations and unions from donating to political parties under Premier Rene Levesque in the 1970s, Conacher said.

The federal government followed suit in 2007, he added.

"But a perusal of donor lists released Tuesday shows corporations provided the lion's share of funding to the governing Progressive Conservatives, totaling $1.9 million of the $3.4 million raised.

AltaLink and ATCO, two companies appointed to construct two controversial electrical transmission lines donated $14,999.50 and $12,950 respectively while SNC Lavalin, which owns, donated another $2,500.

Many other giant corporations with extensive dealings with government were also some of the largest donors; BFI Canada ($15,000), Bruce Power ($8,500), Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. ($15,000), Capital Power ($11,450), CCS Corporation ($15,000), Cenovus Energy (($14,500), Encana ($14,750), First Energy ($15,000), Ledcor Construction ($15,000), Nexen ($10,800), North West Upgrading ($9,000), PCL Construction ($14,850), TransAlta ($9,000), Syncrude ($8,100) and Suncor ($11,125).

Several individuals and organizations made large donations as well, including Edmonton Northlands ($7,250), Katz Group ($4,250), Irv Kipnes ($10,000), Audrey Luft ($13,300), and Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel ($2,100) and Jim Rivait ($3,600).

The Building Trades Council of Alberta donated $7,000.
Unions provided about 25 per cent of the New Democratic Party revenue in 2011. Thirteen unions donated a total of $210,562.20, led by UFCW ($15,000), CUPE ($13,550), USWE District 3 ($12,500), and Insulators Local 110 ($12,000).

The Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta was the king of fundraising, bringing in more than $3.4 million in 2011 against expenses of $3.4 million, leaving a surplus of just $1,021. But the party has more than $2 million in bonds, stocks and securities and $1,3 million in cash.

Membership fees jumped from $17,886 in 2010 to $787,627 in 2011. They also raised $168,500 in leadership candidate registration fees. But they spent $713,558 on holding the leadership race so rather than posting a $409,668 surplus like they did in 2010, they posted only a $1,021 surplus.

The New Democrats also had a great year fundraising, according to Party secretary Brian Stokes. The NDP raised total revenues of $877,488 - compared to $728,460 in 2010 - against expenses of $679,384 to post a $32,677 surplus.

The party still has liabilities of $378,993, but Stokes said he is confident the party will that off in the next few years.

"We had an extremely strong year, one of our strongest in years actually" said Stokes. "We've been expanding the membership and expanding the base and making a concerted effort and we've been building for the campaign."

Canadian Provinces Study Advisory

2012 FDA Canadian Provinces Electoral Finance Report

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