06/29/2012 01:47 EDT | Updated 08/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Carleton University released details of $15M donor deal to politics school

OTTAWA - Carleton University has released information about a $15-million donation that created a school backed by Preston Manning.

The Clayton H. Riddell Graduate Program in Political Management was launched in October 2010 to much fanfare, with Reform party founder Manning — and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy — front and centre.

The program, according to Manning and the university administration, was founded thanks to a $15-million donation from Calgary businessman Clayton Riddell.

Its first students were enrolled last September.

But when The Canadian Press requested a copy of the donor agreement under Ontario's freedom-of-information law last summer, Carleton University issued a blanket refusal.

In denying the request, the university cited invasion of privacy, third-party information and the school's economic interests regarding future fundraising.

Following mediation ordered by the information commissioner's office, Carleton released a heavily redacted copy of the donor agreement in March.

The full, unredacted agreement was released today following a year-long battle over the freedom-of-information request.

Riddell authorized the full release of the donor deal. In a letter to the university, the businessman said he had "no profound objection to the release of this agreement."

"I use the term 'no profound objection' purposefully as I know that you and the University will recognize the privacy issues involved here," Riddell wrote.

"Many donors, including myself and my family, generally prefer to remain in the background when providing support to worthwhile endeavours. Donors have a variety of reason for this, ranging from philanthropic values to avoidance of nuisance solicitations and publicity, and even in some cases to matters of family safety …"

He added the publicity "and the negative suspicions it encourages" can only cause discomfort and uncertainty among the students, faculty and donors, making it hard for the university to raise money for new programs.

"Nonetheless, if the university must choose between allowing our family privacy to be somewhat infringed and allowing others to create mistrust in the graduate program in political management where none should exist, my advice would be to err on the side of transparency, which is why I authorize release of the donor agreement in whole or in summary form if you wish to do so," Riddell wrote.

Carleton University says people from all political stripes have been involved with the program, from former political advisers to pollsters and journalists.

They include former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien's chief of staff Eddie Goldenberg, late NDP leader Jack Layton's former chief of staff Anne McGrath and Alberta Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith.