Alberta bill to ban corporate and union donations just the start of reforms: NDP

Kathleen Ganley
Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley on Tuesday, June 16, 2016. Global News

EDMONTON — Alberta’s justice minister laughed off the PC leader’s criticism of her government’s bill to ban corporate and union donations to political parties Tuesday.

Interim PC leader Ric McIver had called Bill 1 “a naked attempt to tilt the political scale in the current government’s balance.”

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley chuckled when asked about McIver’s remarks.

“This bill is intended to shift the playing field, but not in favour of any political party – it’s intended to shift it in the favour of Albertans so that political candidates and political parties are directly responsible to the citizens of Alberta, rather than whoever has the deepest pockets.”

RAW VIDEO: Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley talks about Bill 1: An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta, as well as Ric McIver’s reaction to the proposed legislation.

Alberta’s NDP government held its first Question Period Tuesday and debate began with the bill, which would permit only individual residents to contribute to a candidate, constituency association, political party or leadership contestant.

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READ MORE: Throne speech: NDP plan higher taxes for wealthy Albertans, big business 

Ganley said the changes will ensure government is responsible only to Alberta citizens.

“This means that, as of yesterday, June 15, candidates will no longer be able to accept union and corporate donations to eliminate deficits left over from the recent election,” said Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley. “It prevents political parties from rushing to fundraise before a deadline. We want to be sure that all political parties’ financing during the term of this legislature complies with these new rules.”

McIver expressed concern with the bill on Monday.

RAW VIDEO: Interim Alberta PC Leader Ric McIver reacts to the NDP government’s throne speech and has some concerns with Bill 1: An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta.

He said he likes the words describing the act – “to increase democracy and fairness and transparency” – but said the bill would do the exact opposite.

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“It’s not a surprise to anyone in this room that Conservative parties have done well raising money from businesses. We also have raised money from labour groups and unions, to be clear.”

He said the current rules for reporting financial donations make the process transparent. He believes Bill 1 would encourage business to find other ways to donate.

“You’re going to need Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and who knows who else to find out who gave money and how it got there,” said McIver. “The transparency that exists today will no longer exist.

“If corporations want to give money, they’ll have to find a legal way to encourage other people to do it, where today they can just write a cheque and report it.”

Ganley says a new all-party legislature committee will be looking at other issues related to campaign financing, including donation limits and whether to extend a similar ban to municipal politics.

READ MORE: Findings from Elections Alberta investigation into Katz donation released 

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean supported the move to ban coprorate and union donations. Liberal Leader David Swann called McIver’s comments “nonsense.”

The Tories have historically relied on corporate donations while about 10 per cent of NDP fundraising in the last calendar year came from union donations.

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With files from The Canadian Press