More than half the investigations by Alberta’s chief electoral officer of alleged political donations from municipalities, school divisions and other “prohibited corporations” have turned up illegal contributions to political parties or constituency associations.
According to numbers released by Elections Alberta on Friday, the agency has completed a review of 59 cases out of a total of 79. In 28 of those files, there is enough evidence to impose administrative penalties — fines equal to the donation — on the donors, while in a further 13 cases the donors and recipients have been censured because the allegations were “partly well founded.”
No details of any of the cases were released however, as Elections Alberta says that under changes to election law made in 2010 it cannot reveal any of the donors or recipients.
Illegal donations became a major political issue in the lead-up to the provincial election. All allegations that were made publicly involved the long-governing Progressive Conservative party or its constituency associations.
In 18 of the cases where offences occurred the “political entities” can and will be ordered to return donations.
Party president Bill Smith said Friday the Tories have already voluntarily returned nearly $9,300 in donations related to nine cases and will comply with any directions from the chief electoral officer.
The PCs have dismissed the contentions of other parties it was deliberately flouting election law, but Smith said it may be time for the laws limiting disclosure of details to be changed.
“If that veil was lifted . . . people might see where the monies were going and we might not look like we’re concealing anything, which we’re not,” said Smith, who added that the party is also reviewing all of its systems around donations.
Tory MLA Don Scott has been appointed an associate minister to review freedom of information and whistleblower legislation though it is uncertain if his brief will include election law.
Premier Alison Redford said this week she wants to increase the transparency of government through Scott’s work.
Shayne Saskiw, the Wildrose party’s justice critic, said the Opposition will push for the law keeping details of electoral violations to be changed.
“We should know who committed these offences . . . how much money was received illegally,” he said.
“We think Premier Redford should be true to her word to be more open and accountable.”
An Elections Alberta spokesman, Drew Westwater, said many of the cases where violations were found involved donors and recipients voluntarily coming forward to the independent agency.
He said no cases have been found that warrant referral to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.