The Wildrose Party says the decision to name a former Conservative cabinet minister to the board of a college that had given him illegal political donations will further undermine the public’s opinion of politicians and the political process. 

Advanced Education Minster Dave Hancock recently named Ray Danyluk chairman of Portage College’s board through an order in council. 

Neither Danyluk nor Hancock responded to interview requests.

“I think it is very disturbing, obviously,” Wildrose advanced education critic Blake Pedersen said.

As revealed by a CBC News investigation, Portage College made thousands of dollars in illegal political donations, all of which went to Danyluk’s riding association, other Tory MLAs or the Conservative party – a fact Pederson calls disturbing.

Pedersen said Hancock’s appointment shows the Tories have become politically cynical and arrogant after more than four decades in power.

“I think it is a back-handed slap,” he said.

“It is evident that when you have a government in power for 42 years, that this is the culture that develops and it is not healthy for government, it is not healthy for any of the public institutions and it is certainly not healthy for the public.”

College spent thousands on Tory fundraisers

Danyluk lost his seat in the last election to Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw after CBC News revealed the widespread practice of illegal political donations made to the Conservative party by municipalities, post-secondary institutions and other publicly-funded organizations.

The CBC investigation found at least 11 organizations, including Portage College, illegally attended Danyluk’s annual golf fundraiser in 2011.  

Documents show the college attended nearly every golf tournament hosted by Danyluk dating back to 2004.

The practice only ended in 2011 when it was exposed by CBC.

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information show the small college, headquartered in Lac La Biche, illegally spent more than $7,600 of taxpayers’ money on the Conservative party and local riding association fundraisers since 2004.

The documents show Danyluk’s riding association and the Tory party actively solicited the college’s financial support, which was readily given for years.

Minutes of board meetings show the college’s financial support for the Tories was openly discussed and its president actively recruited board members to attend Tory fundraising events. 

College executives, including college president Trent Keough, attended premiers’ dinners and golf tournaments for Danyluk and fellow Tory MLA Jeff Johnson.

Emails show that in 2010, the college not only agreed to buy an entire table for 10 at Premier Ed Stelmach’s fundraiser for $650 – they also agreed to pay for an MLA or minister to sit at their table.

However, Danyluk told CBC News in October 2011 he had no idea the college was using public money to attend his fundraising events.

Hancock replaced Lukaszuk

Pedersen said former advanced education minister Thomas Lukaszuk was shuffled out of the portfolio because he had irreversibly damaged the relationship between post-secondary institutions and the government.

Hancock was supposed to repair that relationship, but Pedersen said one of his first acts was a patronage appointment that sent the wrong message to every post-secondary institution in the province.

“We’re just seeing that minister Hancock is quite happy and content to continue on with the same-old same-old, and hand out patronage appointments and play the partisanship game that this government is so well known for,” he said.