News | April 14, 2014

EDMONTON—Representatives of Public Interest Alberta (PIA) called on the ruling Progressive Conservative (PC) party to fix fundamental flaws in the campaign finance rules for the party’s upcoming leadership contest.“There is still time for the PC party to amend their utterly undemocratic rules for this crucial contest,” said PIA President Larry Booi. “The current rules are simply an affront to democracy – they make it possible for wealthy individuals and corporations to have an unfair influence in choosing our next premier, and the PC party must take action now to fix the problem,” said Booi. “The problems with the rules for the last PC contest are quite obvious,” said Booi. “The contribution limits are far too high, with individuals allowed to donate $30,000 for the 2011 contest, won by Alison Redford. The rules allow contributions by corporations and unions instead of restricting donations to individual voters. There are no spending limits, and there are extremely weak disclosure rules. The whole package is a recipe for undue influence by wealthy and powerful interests,” said Booi.PIA Executive Director Bill Moore-Kilgannon pointed to the undemocratic effects of these rules in the 2011 contest: “Alison Redford became premier after receiving almost two-thirds of her funding from corporate sources, and that doesn’t even take into account the $30,000 contributions from wealthy individuals. In addition, her two main rivals for the PC leadership had a similar reliance on corporate funding, so that no matter who became premier, the majority of their funding came from corporations. This situation is blatantly unacceptable.”Moore-Kilgannon also pointed to the ineffective disclosure rules, stating that, “This goes far beyond the absence of a level playing field, it more closely resembles a fixed game, rigged in favour of wealthy interests, without even a guarantee of knowing who is paying. The PC government has deservedly taken a lot of heat lately for listening too much to corporations instead of ordinary citizens. The PC party makes the rules for this leadership contest, and here is an excellent opportunity to fix one part of that problem.”Dr. Craig Holman of the Washington-based organization Public Citizen, who spoke at PIA’s Annual Advocacy Conference on the weekend, agreed that Alberta had far to go in this important area: “No jurisdiction has adequately dealt with the disproportionate influence of money over politics, but Alberta falls far behind most jurisdictions in establishing a transparency and regulatory system that attempts to rein in the role of big money in elections and in influence-peddling.”Booi stated that the solutions are actually simple, and are already in place in much of Canada, especially at the federal level. “It’s quite straightforward, and involves four clear steps: Lower the contribution limits to $1200, ban corporate and union contributions, put in place reasonable spending limits, and require full disclosure of contributions. All of these rules have been in place at the federal level for the last decade, and they work well.” He added, “It would be a dramatic step forward for democracy in Alberta, it would limit the undue influence of wealthy interests, and it would also result in more reasonable costs for the whole leadership contest.”-30