01/08/2013 05:04 EST | Updated 03/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Daryl Katz Elections Alberta Probe: Judge To Investigate Donation From Oilers Owner To Alberta PCs


EDMONTON - A retired judge has been appointed to review political donations made by Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz to the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.

Elections Alberta spokesman Drew Westwater would not say how much money is involved, but the Opposition Wildrose party says the donation was for $430,000.

"We have an investigative team in place to confirm or deny that the contribution took place and whether the contribution was in conformity with the requirements of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act," Westwater said Tuesday.

"We would like to have it wrapped up some time this spring."

Former Alberta Queen's Bench justice Ernest Marshall is heading the team. He is being assisted by two independent investigators, one who has a police background.

Wildrose justice critic Shayne Saskiw said he welcomes the appointment of the independent investigators.

The Opposition has been calling for the investigation since last fall after media reports indicated the Alberta PCs accepted a single $430,000 donation. Under Alberta law the legal limit for a single donation is $30,000.

“The PC party must be held to account for soliciting and attempting to get around these rules, and Albertans deserve a level playing field during elections and the assurance that their government is not for sale,” Saskiw said.

Westwater said Elections Alberta will determine if the election finance law was breached once Marshall reports his findings.

If the law was broken, the PC party and Katz could face fines and any illegal donations would have to be paid back.

"If there is a violation in contravention of the Elections Finance Act we can order the contribution to be returned to the contributor, we can fine the political party that accepted it up to a maximum of $10,000 and we can also fine the contributor up to a maximum of $10,000 for each violation of the act."

Jim McCormick, president of the Alberta Tories, said party officials are co-operating with the investigation. He reiterated past comments that no one has done anything wrong.

"Our position hasn't changed," he said from Calgary. "With regards to the Katz matter, we conducted ourselves under the provisions of the act, for sure."

Last November, Premier Alison Redford said she may have personally thanked Katz for making a donation, but she's not sure.

Katz has not commented on his donation.

Earlier last fall, Elections Alberta posted lists of people who donated to political parties in the April 23 election, which saw the Tories win a majority government.

The receipts showed $300,000 in donations from Katz, his family, and business associates in donations at or below the $30,000 maximum.

There have been published reports that Katz gave the Tories much more than that — about $430,000 — and that he delivered it all in one cheque.

The Wildrose and New Democrats say the hefty donation also puts the government in a conflict of interest with Katz, who has been seeking $100 million in direct provincial funding and casino licence changes for a new downtown arena for the Oilers.

Alberta's ethics commissioner has also begun a review into a conflict-of-interest allegation involving Redford over a government lawsuit filed against Big Tobacco.

It's alleged that Redford awarded a contract in 2011 to a group of law firms that included her former husband, Robert Hawkes, when she was justice minister.

Alberta's opposition parties say Redford is in a potential conflict of interest and have asked the ethics commissioner to investigate.

Redford told the legislature in November the accusations of conflict of interest are false.

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