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Controversial fundraiser has PCs and mayoral candidates under fire

EDMONTON- The PC government is coming under fire over a fundraiser and mayoralty candidates’ forum, which was originally going to be moderated by Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths.

The Edmonton-Riverview PC Association is hosting a $150-a-plate fundraiser in October, which was also going to include a forum with Edmonton mayoral candidates Kerry Diotte, Don Iveson and Karen Leibovici.

The event’s website said Griffiths would co-moderate the forum with MLA Steve Young and ask candidates “How will the new Mayor get along with Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government?”

Each mayoral candidate would be given five minutes to “spell out exactly how they, as new Mayor, plan on working with the Province of Alberta, the Capital Region MLA’s and PC Leader, the Honourable Alison Redford.”

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith says the forum is a “clear indication that the PC government is attempting to put the city’s future mayor firmly under its control.”

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“I can’t imagine a scenario in which a Wildrose government would ever force municipal candidates to raise money for our party and answer questions from the Municipal Affairs Minister in a room full of party supporters,” Smith said in a news release. “This is clearly a summons to perform and it just shows how far this government will go in their attempts to bully municipalities.”

Minister Griffiths’ spokesperson Kathleen Range confirms to Global News Griffiths will no longer participate in the fundraiser. Range says when Griffiths agreed to participate in the event he thought it was a standard party fundraiser and wasn’t aware of the mayoral candidates’ forum. Range acknowledged it would be inappropriate for Griffiths to be asking questions of the candidates. Griffiths’ picture was quickly taken down off the event’s website. You can see the original invitation below:

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Global News has reached out to all three candidates for comment. A spokesperson for Don Iveson originally confirmed the mayoral candidate would attend the event. John Brennan said he was not aware Griffiths was moderating the forum when the Iveson campaign agreed to attend. But, Brennan said the fact that it’s a PC fundraiser is “neither here nor there” and it’s up to the constituency association to justify why tickets are being sold.

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“We accepted an invitation to attend a mayoralty debate and we’re willing to take part; it’s up to them to explain,” Brennan said.

However, Iveson then took to Twitter to clarify his stance, saying he will not be participating in the forum.

“I will NOT be participating in any partisan #ableg fundraising #yegvote event. It was not clear to me it was a fundraiser,” a tweet sent Thursday evening read.

“as a #yegcc city councillor I don’t fundraise for any #ableg political parties,” Iveson tweeted.

A spokesperson for Karen Leibovici has confirmed the mayoral candidate will not be participating in the event either.

“The only reason that we agreed to participate is because our opponents agreed to. We’re not participating.  We will debate our opponents on the issues anywhere, anytime on any subject.  We have more experience than they have because this election matters,” said Warren Michaels.

On Friday, Kerry Diotte said there was miscommunication around the entire event. He says no political party should hold a fundraiser involving mayoral candidates.

Sherwood Park MLA and former Mayor of Strathcona County, Cathy Olesen, also reacted to the situation on Twitter Thursday evening.

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MacEwan University Political Scientist Chaldeans Mensah says he believes the PC Association should be given the benefit of the doubt in this situation.

“In short, this appears to be a fundraiser, and the association is taking the opportunity of the civic election to get the mayoral candidates to highlight the event with a view to establishing future fruitful relations with the Provincial government. I think this is a case where, the optics might be questionable, but I don’t think there is an obvious ethical breach here,” Mensah said in an email.

“The goal of cementing relations with the PC government is a worthy one, and all the major contestants have been given an opportunity to participate.”

However, he says all three candidates should be prepared to participate in similar events if requested by other political parties.

Global News reached out Steve Young, the PC MLA for Edmonton-Riverview, but as of yet, we have not received a response. However, shortly after 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Young took to twitter to say the debate portion of the event would be cancelled.

The PC Association’s invitation has been updated and has been posted below:

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With files from Vassy Kapelos, Global News.