Chief electoral officer asked to probe Katz's donation to Tories

Two Alberta opposition parties have formally asked the chief electoral officer to review whether a large contribution to the Tories from the Edmonton Oilers owner last spring broke election laws.
The leaders of the Wildrose and NDP parties ask the chief electoral officer to investigate 2:40

Alberta's chief electoral officer has officially been asked to investigate donations the Progressive Conservative party received from the owner of the Edmonton Oilers, Daryl Katz, his family and executives in the last election.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith and NDP Leader Brian Mason sent letters to Brian Fjeldheim asking him to probe the donations which totalled at least $300,000.

Documents released by Elections Alberta say that Katz, his wife, his father, his top executives and his companies each donated $30,000, the maximum allowed under Alberta election laws.

But a report in the Globe and Mail alleges that the party received $430,000 that came in a single cheque from Katz.

NDP leader Brian Mason wants Fjeldheim to check which accounts the individual donations came from. In his letter, Mason says that the Election Financing Act "indicates that contributors to campaigns must donate their own money rather than money belonging to another person or company..."

In her letter, Smith asks Fjeldheim to launch a full investigation and if he finds "any barriers" she asks that he makes "the impediments known to the entire legislature so that we can work to address them as we work through the bill amending the election-related acts this fall."

Premier Alison Redford said that her party followed the rules and doesn't believe the donations were made with a single cheque.

Alberta's former chief electoral officer Lorne Gibson says the numerous contributions from Katz to a single party would have raised suspicions with him.

Gibson says other Canadian jurisdictions place limits on campaign spending and have and lower caps on political contributions.

"The limits on contributions are effectively meaningless in Alberta as far as I'm concerned, with a limit of $30,000 in an election year," Gibson said.

"You have to bear in mind, as well, that individuals, corporations and unions can also contribute to political parties in the years leading up to an election."

Katz had been seeking $100 million in provincial funding for an arena in downtown Edmonton, so the donations raise questions with Mason. 

"I personally find it difficult to believe that a businessman like Mr. Katz would invest a half a million dollars in a political campaign under those circumstances without expecting something in return," he said.

The future of the arena project is in question.

Last week, Edmonton city council unanimously voted to end negotiations with the Katz Group after the Oilers owner failed to appear at a meeting to explain why last year's framework funding deal was no longer viable.