How did Edmonton Oilers owner and billionaire Daryl Katz get away with donating nearly half a million dollars to Alison Redford's then-struggling campaign for office during the spring provincial election?
He didn't, exactly. But he tried. The Globe and Mail reports that Katz wrote a cheque to the Redford campaign to the tune of $430,000 - almost one-third of the party's total fundraising donations - but the donation was eventually broken down into smaller pieces and the resulting donations tallied $300,000.
Documents released Wednesday by Elections Alberta show four Katz family members, including Daryl, his brother, mom and dad, donated $30,000 apiece. His company, Katz group, also donated the same figure.
The documents also show another four donors and their companies, all employees and associates of Katz, who donated an additional $150,000 dollars.
Under Elections Alberta rules, the maximum donation allowed by an individual or company is $30,000. In some cases, splitting donations is allowed.
Section 19 of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act states parties can't “knowingly accept any contributions in excess of the limits imposed.” As well, Section 34 states parties can't “solicit or knowingly accept any contribution” that doesn’t come from the pocket of the contributor.
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That's why the donation is drawing ire from some, as well as calls for an investigation from the NDP.
“To have a $30,000 maximum and then see it flouted in this ridiculous way is just an insult to Albertans,” NDP Leader Brian Mason told the Globe and Mail.
Mason has accused Katz of buying the government in an attempt to secure funding for the embattled downtown arena and that Redford should pay the money back.
“We better watch out for the shoe to drop, because I think Daryl Katz is going to be getting his $100 million,” he told Metro Canada.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith told Metro she doubts Katz will get the $100 million he is seeking from the government.
“I think it would raise a lot of eyebrows Ms. Redford did change her publicly stated position.”
“That's a lot of money that's a lot for the average person. For Mr. Katz, maybe it's not. I'm not sure exactly how the donations were levied out so I've never been asked for any political favours by anybody,” Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths told CBC Edmonton.
Griffiths clarified that the donation did not factor into the government's decision on arena funding. The Tories had earlier said that they will not give any money to the arena project directly, but rather a $100 million injection could come from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative.
“No favour has been given and I still maintain the position that funding is given through MSI to municipalities, so that they can make the decision that's appropriate to their citizens," said Griffiths.
According to the Globe, Katz had not donated significantly to Alberta politics. Metro Canada lists in the past Katz and his companies made smaller donations, giving $4,250 from the Katz Group in 2011 and $11,375 in 2010 through Medicine Shoppe Canada, which the Katz group owned at the time.
But as the days wound down to the April 23 election, and money became tight for the Conservatives, Katz was there with a cash injection.
Mason attributed the amount of money spent by the Conservatives to their fear of losing the election.
“It’s obvious they barely hung on by the skin of their teeth and they threw a huge amount of money at it,” he told the Edmonton Journal.
“Money talks in elections and I think that’s why we need further election financing reform to put the parties on a level playing field.”
Doug Mitchell, national co-chair of the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais, agrees with Mason, questioning the size of the maximum $30,000 donations allowed in Alberta.
“Even the amount of $30,000 to the party seems like a lot,” Mr. Mitchell told the Globe, who adding that it is “a very high limit for ordinary people.”
On the federal level, corporations and unions cannot donate and the maximum donation for individuals is $1,100.
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