Edmonton

NDP admits 'serious mistake' in linking invitations to fundraising

The new NDP house leader says he had no idea that invitations sent by the party to Sunday’s swearing-in ceremony were linked to fundraising efforts.

Party's new house leader says he knew nothing about NDP fundraising emails

NDP house leader Brian Mason. (CBC)

The New Democrats admitted Friday that emails sent to donors and supporters this week improperly linked a party fundraising appeal with a publicly funded event.

"This was a serious mistake, conduct we committed to end during the campaign," Mary McLean, the party's acting provincial secretary, said in a statement on the Alberta NDP website.

"As acting provincial secretary, I have directed an immediate end to this fundraising appeal and the removal of information on the Internet supporting it. And I have directed that there be no repetition of fundraising appeals that refer to publicly funded events in this way.

'We sincerely apologize'

"We sincerely apologize to Albertans for this mistake."

Brian Mason, the NDP house leader, told CBC News on Friday he had no idea that invitations sent by the party to Sunday's swearing-in ceremony had been linked to fundraising efforts.

"I don't really know very much about it," Brian Mason said. "I haven't seen the fundraising thing, and I don't know the context at all behind it."

Earlier this week, the NDP sent emails to donors and supporters inviting them to attend the Sunday ceremony at the legislature grounds, where Rachel Notley and her cabinet will be sworn in.

Those who clicked the RSVP button were directed to another invitation to take out their credit cards and donate up to $2,500 to the New Democrats.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean was quick to criticize the move, saying it blurred the line between government and party and was reminiscent of the Prentice Tories.

Minimum wage helps economy

In an interview with CBC, Mason was asked Friday about his party's pledge to raise Alberta's minimum wage to $15 within three years.

The plan has been widely criticized by the business community.

In defence of the idea, Mason cited former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who he said often expressed the view that low-income people spend all their money locally, rather than tucking it away in offshore investments or splurging on holidays in Mexico.

"It's one of the best things you can do to stimulate the economy, to make sure that people are spending money in local businesses," Mason said. "So, I think it makes very good economic sense."

Mason said he agrees that relatively few people in Alberta actually earn minimum wage, because the province's economy usually burns hotter than other jurisdictions.

"But there some people who are being left behind," he said. "And I think we need to make sure that those people can make a living to support themselves."

'Get rid of these guys'

Mason, who was appointed NDP house leader on Thursday, said he's looking forward to getting back into the legislature and down to business.

"I knew somebody would get rid of these guys sooner or later," he said of the Tories, who had been in power for 44 years before the election earlier this month. "I didn't think it would be us, while I was still around."

Asked about his reputation, while in opposition, for being disagreeable in the legislature, Mason said the label is unfair.

"I think I have good friends on all sides of the house. I enjoy myself in the house. I'm very aggressive as an opposition member needs to be. But at the end of the day, I can go for a beer with just about any one of my colleagues."

Mason said most debate among MLAs takes place behind the scenes, when there are no television cameras around. The tone is much different during question period, he said.

"You're trying to make your point, you're trying to get on the evening news with your point of view. You'll find, I think, that our legislature is one of the tamer ones in the country."

Mason said he and other party MLAs with experience have been busy over the last two weeks coaching and training the newcomers who were swept into office by the orange wave on May 5.

He said while many new NDP members lack experience in the legislature, they come from a wide range of backgrounds and bring expertise from business, and from serving on school boards, in unions, and on city councils.

"There's learning to be done, there's no doubt about it," he said. "But I think it's going to be fine."

Mason said his party will have no problem working with those on the other side of the aisle.

"We certainly understand the role of opposition, probably better than anyone else. Their jobs is to hold government to account. And we intend to ensure that the opposition has that opportunity."

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