Incumbent Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is again calling on competitor Bill Smith to release his donor information, bringing up ghosts of arenas past in a press conference reacting to the Flames’ publicly released proposal Friday and saying Smith took an illegal donation from the Edmonton Oilers group when he was a provincial party president.
Smith says he expects an apology.
“I probably shouldn’t raise this again and I’m sure people will get mad at me, but a lot of this has to do with the fact that we have people running for mayor who refuse to tell you who’s giving them money; who refuse to tell them who their donors are,” Nenshi told reporters Friday.
FULL COVERAGE: 2017 Calgary election
Nenshi pointed out when Smith was the president of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, he accepted “his single-largest donation from the owner of the Edmonton Oilers; nearly half-a-million dollars.”
“And shortly after that, the provincial government, the party of which he was the president, approved a CRL deal that funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to the Edmonton Oilers.
“In fact, he accepted an illegal donation from the COO, I think it was, of the Oilers; not only did he send it back, the guy gave him back the money and an extra $5,000 funneled through a private company.”
Smith said any allegation that he approved a CRL in Edmonton based on the Oilers donation was “simply not true.”
“If Mr. Nenshi has any proof of that I’d be happy to see him put it forward, otherwise I would expect an apology.”
Watch below: Bill Smith responds to Nenshi’s accusations
In May 2013, Elections Alberta released results of an investigation into allegations of illegal donations to the PC party involving Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz. The investigation was launched after allegations Katz made a single donation of $430,000 to the PC party during the April 2012 election campaign in the form of one cheque. This would violate the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, which prohibits single donations over $30,000.
All but one of the allegations relating to the Katz Group donation were unfounded. The violation was that Paul Marcaccio, chief financial officer of the Katz Group of Companies, was not a resident of Alberta in April 2012 when he made a contribution.
When asked Friday if he’s saying Smith is “taking money” from the Flames, Nenshi said:
“I’m saying that he has the ability to answer that question and so far, he has refused to do so… Past practice; future behaviour. If he has nothing to hide, why is he hiding?”
But in response, Smith said he hasn’t taken anything from the Flames.
Mount Royal University professor and political analyst Duane Bratt said the mayor’s comments show “either Nenshi is worried about a challenge from Smith or that Smith has got under Nenshi’s skin. Possibly both.”
READ MORE: Nenshi releases campaign donor list
On the topic of the Katz donation, Bratt acknowledged Smith was cleared, but called it “an extremely shady deal.”
“Even if legal (which I still question) it was pretty unethical,” Bratt wrote to Global News. “Katz was able to bundle multiple donations from family members to give over $400,000 to the PCs at the tail end of the election.”
Bratt suggested the situation highlighted large gaps in campaign finance laws at the time and was also a catalyst for the eventual decision of the NDP government to reform the system.
But he said linking the donation accusations to the Edmonton deal and CRL was “off base, unfair and a cheap shot.”
“There is a big difference between a party president and the government. To suggest that Smith was involved in the CRL is untrue.”
Bratt pointed out Nenshi has been constantly challenging Smith to release his donor list, in the hopes someone connected to the Flames has donated to Smith.
“Smith has said he is following the rules as they currently are; Nenshi is going to continue to hammer at this point to raise doubts in the public,” Bratt said. “I also think Nenshi realizes that Smith has probably raised more money than him and is using the Flames issue to cloud it.”
With files from Alyssa Julie and Emily Mertz