Calgary

Jason Kenney defends fundraising while collecting MP salary

Jason Kenney is defending his summer fundraising activities — collecting donations for his PC leadership bid while still sitting as a federal MP.

NDP asked for investigation, but Elections Alberta has no authority outside of an official campaign

Jason Kenny's campaign said it's not breaking any rules in its fundraising. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Jason Kenney is defending his summer fundraising activities — collecting donations for his PC leadership bid while still sitting as a federal MP.

The Alberta NDP asked the province's electoral watchdog to investigate, but Elections Alberta said it has no authority outside an official election campaign.

Kenney's Unite Alberta campaign said it's following all the rules, but Calgary-based pollster Janet Brown thinks it's bad optics for the former head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"It seems to me that it's odd for somebody who bills himself as a fiscal hawk not to be reneging his MP salary and not to be more transparent about the money he's spending in this pre-campaign period," she said. 

Campaign lays out rules

Kenney was not available for comment, but a statement released by his campaign said Unite Alberta is registered as a not-for-profit corporation and is acting as the "de facto leadership campaign for Jason Kenney until the official PC leadership campaign starts on October 1, 2016."

Unite Alberta is adhering to the rules laid out in the last two PC leadership contests, including a maximum donation limit of $30,000, it said, adding that money will not be transferred from Unite Alberta to Kenney's official leadership campaign once it begins in October. 

The campaign has not yet clarified what will be done with any surplus funds. 

Further, the campaign said donors who reach the $30,000 limit with Unite Alberta will not be able to contribute to the Kenney leadership campaign and a list of donors will be released. 

Brian Jean avoids comparisons

On Friday, Wildrose leader Brian Jean sidestepped questions about Kenney's fundraising, but noted his own history transitioning from federal to provincial politics. 

"Actually, I was not in government for a year before I ran for this office," he said.  

"I'm not going to get involved. I think it's something that the PC members have to decide for themselves."

The Kenney of 1996

Political scientist Duanne Bratt said despite the Unite Alberta campaign assurances it's not running afoul of the law, there's more to it than that. 

"There's no legal issue here. On the ethics, he actually looks better than many other people in his position. I think what gives it greater weight is his past history with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation," he said, echoing Brown's comments.

"So, the question would be: if Jason Kenney of 1996 was around, what would he think of this situation?"

Regardless of the answer to that question, the Kenney of 2016 shows no signs of hesitation. On Saturday, his campaign sent out a fundraising plea piggybacking on the fundraising controversy. 

"I think we scared the NDP with our fundraising numbers last week, because they just asked Elections Alberta to shut us down," reads the email, which ends by asking supporters for $5 in order to help in the fight.

With files from Allison Dempster

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