Calgary·Calgary Votes 2021

Complaint filed with Elections Alberta about campaign's use of signs paid for by third party advertiser

A candidate in Calgary's mayoral race has filed a complaint with Elections Alberta against a competitor for his connections to a third party advertiser (TPA).

Jeff Davison's campaign says it's following the rules as competitor raises questions

Jeff Davison, speaking to media in July denying allegations his campaign circumvented donation rules using a third party advertiser — the same TPA that is now paying for signs being distributed by Davison's campaign. (CBC)

A candidate in Calgary's mayoral race has filed a complaint with Elections Alberta against a competitor for his connections to a third party advertiser (TPA).

Jan Damery said Jeff Davison's campaign has received and distributed election signs that were paid for by Calgary Tomorrow, a registered TPA that is supporting Davison.

Candidates are only allowed to raise money from individual donors who live in Alberta. TPAs can raise money from individuals, corporations and unions.

Damery said campaigns should not be taking signs from TPAs and using them as their own.

"Our interpretation of the act — and we believe the act is very clear — a campaign/candidate cannot receive corporate donations for any campaign expense. Lawn signs, collateral are campaign expenses, they are materials."

She said advertising is a major expense for well organized campaigns, so having election signs provided by another campaign would either save many thousands of dollars or allow campaign donations to be used for other types of expenses.

From campaign office to TPA 

Damery noted that Section 166 of the province's Local Authorities Election Act states that campaigns and TPAs are not allowed to work together to get around rules regarding contribution or expense limits.

Her campaign team decided to test the theory.

The communications director for Damery's campaign, Lizzie Virgo, said she requested a Davison election sign by contacting his campaign office and by going through the Davison campaign website.

In both cases, she received an election sign that stated it was authorized by Calgary Tomorrow.

For the Calgary Tomorrow sign that was delivered to her address, there was also a thank-you note from the Davison campaign.

Numerous elections signs at Davison's campaign headquarters, both inside and outside, state on them that they were authorized by Calgary Tomorrow.

Campaign says signs are compliant

Davison's campaign would not comment on its use of the TPA's signs but it did say the campaign's advertising is within the boundaries of the provincial law.

No details on which sections of the province's legislation were offered to substantiate that assertion.

Earlier this month, Davison said he wasn't happy with the province's TPA rules.

"I've been a harsh critic of TPAs since the beginning. I don't like them. I think the rules imposed by the province are too complex and do not improve the level of transparency we should have in our election processes," said Davison.

He suggested that TPAs should reveal their donors before election day, not months later as permitted by the legislation.

He promised to lobby the provincial government to change the rules.

The Calgary Tomorrow signs make use of Davison's picture as well as his campaign logo and slogan.

When asked if he had any concerns about an organization outside of his campaign using his intellectual property, he said this is a situation created by the provincial government.

"For me, I'm grateful that I have support out there, and they're clearly in support of my candidacy going forward."

No comment from municipal affairs

The department of municipal affairs refused to comment on the situation regarding signs paid for by a TPA being used by a campaign.

Under the provincial legislation, TPAs are allowed to advertise their support for or in opposition to a candidate.

A department official noted that only an individual who lives in Alberta can make a contribution to a candidate.

In the Local Authorities Election Act, a contribution is defined as "money, personal property, real property or service that is provided to or for the benefit of a candidate's election campaign without fair market compensation from that candidate."

Elections Alberta says the act spells out how TPA advertising is to be conducted but that the Department of Municipal Affairs may issue regulations regarding additional rules.

The department tells CBC News that no further regulations have been issued by the government regarding TPA advertising expenses.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Dippel

Politics Reporter

Scott Dippel has been at CBC News for more than two decades across four provinces. His roles have included legislative reporter, news reader, assignment editor and national reporter. When not at Calgary's City Hall, it's still all politics, all the time.

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