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Sunday, July 07, 2019

Will Big Money Manipulate Alberta Politics?

The advent of American-style big, and sometimes secret donors, coming into Alberta's political culture through Political Action Committees (PAC) is not good.  The situation isn't as bad as the American model where their Supreme Court ruled that, under free speech rights, there would be no contribution restrictions and no disclosure requirements for election supports and spending.  However what we have for rules regarding PAC contributions is far from ideal for a health for democracy or to assure trust in our political parties and politicians and fairness in our electoral processes.

The very first law passed by the new Notley government was to impose restricted levels of donations by individuals, corporation and unions directly into Alberta political campaigns. but there are no contribution limits on corporations, unions or others for PACs. In December 2017 further legislation passed to set up an Election Commissioner with power conduct elections and to receive complaints, review and discipline on matters of involved legal breaches in elections.

PACs now have to disclose donors over $250 and they must all be from Alberta and imposed limits on spending in months before an election.  We are now in constant election mode what with the hyper-partisan belligerent rivalry between the two major parties.  We have the not-so-United Right United Conservative Party under Jason Kenney and Rachel Notley's rogue Alberta NDP that is far from aligned to the Federal NDP as required by party documents.  Notley is also at loggerheads with the BC NDP over pipeline access to the west coast.

As a result we are now seeing some significant PAC advertising spending in October and November to get ahead of the December 1 deadline and to help identify and frame the issues for a party and/or leader before the 2019 election.  The laws governing PAC are still too loose, had to enforce and the actions taken by some PACs have been dodgy at best.  Now the NDP has filed a complaint with the Elections Commissioner in one such dodgy instance.


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