Blog | May 28, 2014

By James Wood and Chris Varcoe, Calgary HeraldTory leadership hopeful Thomas Lukaszuk said the public wants the candidates vying to become Alberta’s next premier to make clear who is backing them financially before Progressive Conservatives vote to select a new leader in September.Front-runner Jim Prentice is non-committal on the issue, but Lukaszuk promised this week to release his list of financial supporters before the ballots are cast Sept. 6 — as has another leadership contender, Ric McIver.“I have no issue of disclosing my donor list,” said Lukaszuk, who stepped down from cabinet last week to run and has until Friday to become an official candidate.“I’m actually very proud of my donor list because it will show my support comes from a very wide range of supporters.”The Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA said he’s not calling on other leadership hopefuls to follow suit but expects “Albertans will ask for it.”“I intuitively believe the public wants to know…it gives you a clear understanding of the candidate,” Lukaszuk added.Under provincial legislation that came into effect in 2013, leadership candidates must file their contributors list with Elections Alberta following the campaign, identifying all donations over $250. The agency will then post the financial documents online.However, in the last Tory leadership vote in 2011, five out of the six candidates voluntarily disclosed their contributors at some point prior to vote. In the 2012 provincial election, both the PCs and Wildrose released their financial supporters just days before election day.PC president Jim McCormick said the party, which set a $30,000 limit on donations, has made no rules requiring disclosure ahead of the leadership vote and has no concerns given the provincial law.Prentice said in an interview this week he had given no thought to whether his campaign would release its donation list ahead of time.“We will follow the process put in place by the party and required by Elections Alberta to the letter,” said Prentice, who served in a variety of federal cabinet posts before leaving to become vice-chairman of CIBC in 2010.McIver, the Calgary-Hays MLA who joined Prentice as the second official candidate in the race Tuesday after being registered by Elections Alberta, could not be reached for comment. However, campaign spokeswoman Heather Massel said the former transportation minister intends to release his donor list shortly before the September vote.Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of the Public Interest Alberta advocacy group, said revealing who gave money to a candidate months after the votes are counted is “completely useless.”“People want to know who these leadership candidates — and our future premier — are actually going to feel most connected to because of their financial support for their campaign,” he said.Federal rules require donors to be identified at the start of a leadership campaign and on a weekly basis while it is underway.Moore-Kilgannon said disclosure is particularly important in a contest like the Tory battle, where the donation limit is set so high and there is no ban on union and corporate contributions.In the 2011 PC election, five candidates together spent $6.3 million.With his corporate connections and the backing of 45 PC MLAs, Prentice is expected to enjoy a financial lead in the race to become Tory leader, although the former Calgary Centre-North MP said this week he is not personally taking an active role in fundraising.However, Lukaszuk scoffed at the significance of money in the campaign.In both the 2006 and 2011 PC leadership races, the front-runners — Jim Dinning and Gary Mar — raised the most amount of money but both lost on the second ballot.“Money doesn’t win you campaigns. Money shows you that you have the support of the establishment who like to anoint a premier from time to time,” said Lukaszuk.“Having a full bank account with a lot of consultants around you — well, hopefully you have their votes on your side, but this is about the grassroots, this is about reaching Albertans, average everyday Albertans to vote.”