November 2, 2016 8:04 pm
Updated: November 2, 2016 8:58 pm

‘It’s the Wild West’: Opposition calls for Sask. campaign finance reform

WATCH ABOVE: An Alberta group is calling on campaign finance reform in Saskatchewan. They say the Saskatchewan Party shouldn't be receiving donations from Alberta-based businesses like Crescent Point and PCL Construction. Does this practice influence policy? David Baxter looks into it.

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Financial statements released by an organization called Progress Alberta show that Alberta-based companies have donated about $2 million to the Saskatchewan Party over the past decade.

This had the Saskatchewan NDP calling for reform to campaign finance laws in Question Period on Wednesday.

“It should be Saskatchewan people influencing that. We fully support getting big money out of Saskatchewan politics,” opposition leader Trent Wotherspoon said.

“Right now, it’s the wild west.”

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Premier Brad Wall said the Saskatchewan Party has received nearly $30 million in donations over the last decade and about 10 per cent came from corporations with headquarters outside Saskatchewan.

“How do you say to Crescent Point, who employ directly and indirectly thousands of people in this province, who have a lot at stake in terms of government, a chance to participate in democracy even if they want to provide support for either party,” Wall said.

Wall added that the province’s lobbyist registry provides transparency to the dealings of politicians and agencies like corporations and unions. This is because all of these meetings need to be documented.

The province launched the registry in August.

Associate political science professor at the University of Regina Jim Farney said Saskatchewan is lagging behind other provinces when it comes to campaign finance reform.

Most jurisdictions have some kind of cap on donations that can be made to political parties — such a cap doesn’t exist in Saskatchewan.
Farney said lobbyist registries tend to work best when combined with these other regulations.

“Most other places have had [lobbyist registries] for a decade. So to some extent the tools that you or I would use to go is there something fishy are very slow coming on stream,” Farney said.

He added that even if nothing fishy is going on, large corporate donations can create that impression for voters.

“Saskatchewan has been murkier than other provinces because we haven’t cleared the water up,” Farney said.

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