Many Questions and Concerns Still UnansweredEDMONTON—It was revealed in an article in the Calgary Herald today that Service Alberta Minister, Manmeet Bhullar, has admitted that he paid back $10,000 in election campaign contributions that he received from Solo Liquor Stores.
Public Interest Alberta was the organization that submitted the original request for an investigation to Elections Alberta on September 5th, 2012. When the investigation into the $430,000 in contributions from Darrel Katz and associates was made public, we inquired why the investigation into Minister Bhullar was also not revealed. We were informed by Elections Alberta in a letter on May 2nd, 2013 that “the investigation was concluded prior to the December 2012 enactment of significant legislative amendments to the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act… We are still reviewing the matter and will advise you whether the Act allows for retroactive disclosure in this circumstance.” Despite further inquiries, Elections Alberta never responded to our requests.
This raises many additional questions and concerns:
- What was the actual decision from Elections Alberta?
- Why are we in the situation of having to dig deeply in order to get this information? Why don't our rules make it readily available?
- If this contribution is allowed under the rules, could a single corporation with 100 subsidiaries give $200,000 to a single candidate?
- If this was not allowed, does this mean that, if you break the law on election funding, all you have to do is "give back the money" and then everything is fine?
- How was the money paid back? As we learned in the Mike Duffy case, how and who "paid back the money" did not resolve the issue. When the "No Meet Committee" MLAs were instructed to pay back the money and did so (however reluctantly) that was supposed to end the matter, but now it appears that the entire PC caucus was forced by the Premier to foot the bill.
- MLA Bhullar accepted six $2,000 contributions from a liquor store, and as a cabinet minister he has jurisdiction over those stores. Why is this allowed under our rules?
- Is it not now obvious that the province's campaign finance rules are woefully inadequate, and need major reform? Isn't it time to ban corporate and union contributions altogether, as they have done at the federal level and in a number of other provinces?
“We need to get to the bottom of these serious concerns and questions in order to make sure politicians are not able to play fast and loose with our campaign finance laws,” says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “Both the Minister and Elections Alberta need to openly explain what happened and what they will do to resolve this issue in the future.”-30-
Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director, (780) 420-0471 (Office)