Thursday, November 3, 2016

Premier of Saskatchewan, Not Alberta Opposition Leader

SOURCE: Alberta Politics - The Question Must be Asked: Was Brad Wall's Party Being Paid to Undermine Alberta's NDP?
SOURCE: CBC News - Saskatchewan Party Received Millions in Donations from Alberta Companies
SOURCE: CKOM - Premier Brad Wall Gets Extra Top-Up Salary from Sask. Party

One of these days, I'll get to the Global Transportation Hub and the stuff coming out from there...OR the proverbial war of words between Wall and any member of the Liberal Federal Government he feels like complaining to about the Carbon Tax...OR the state of the increasing deficit...Or any of the other myriad of problems that continues to creep up under Wall's watch.

But what I want to talk about today is some revelations about electoral funding that came out this week. Predominantly, the fact that Wall and the Saskatchewan Party have raked in millions of dollars from out of province donors; predominantly from Alberta based companies in the oil and gas sector.

Now, a cornerstone of democracy is the idea of transparency. Citizens remain informed on what their elected representatives are up to in our name; or at least, in theory, that's part of how this is supposed to work. Part of that is knowing about monied interests when it comes to our politicians. That's why we have financial disclosures and rules revolving around conflict of interest and codes of ethics.

We like to know where the bread is buttered, and by whom, when it comes to our politicians raising money to get elected or re-elected.

We can watch and see whether they're getting grassroots support from a bunch of individual donors, or if they're taking in dollar over fist of donations from large special interests (Corporations, Unions, Lobby Groups, etc).

That way, when it comes time to make a difficult decision that impacts a certain group, we can be sure that our politicians are acting in the best interest of the voters and not in the interest of their major donors.

Which brings us to the Alberta donations.

Saskatchewan's electoral finance laws have been described as "the wild west", which is an over-used cliche by the way, with regards to rules and restrictions. In terms of residency, Saskatchewan simply requires that you be a Canadian citizen to donate to a party here. So that means Mrs. Entity from BC can hand out as much money to any Saskatchewan based party she'd like, even though she doesn't live in the province or is eligible to vote for any of those candidates.

Some provinces do have residency restrictions on donations to political parties. Ontario, for example, requires you to be a resident in order to make a contribution. It seems like a common-sense argument: If you are unable to cast a ballot in the province, why should you be allowed to contribute huge sums of money to a party there?

Yet, Premier Wall has "no plans" to discuss changing the laws regarding this issue. He even cites that not a single voter mentioned the problem with this during the last campaign; so, if that's the only benchmark we need, we'd best start getting that letter writing campaign going to see if the voters who do complain about it are enough to sway him.

The opposition NDP have taken on the issue, with Trent Wotherspoon calling for an end to corporate, union, and out-of-province donations. Wall's response was to complain that the NDP got money from unions, and more or less left it at that.

The difference here, of course, is the NDP is putting up ALL of those donors on the chopping block. So, the NDP has shown that they're willing to stop allowing union contributions moving forward in the future. Whereas Wall has not shown any evidence that he's ready to cut ties to the nearly $13 million received over the last 10 years from corporate donations.

For fun, let's look at some of the numbers dating back to the 2011 Election. All numbers taken from Elections Saskatchewan.

Total Raised: $1,326,180.09
Corporate: $144,870.40
Union: $211,156.90

Sask Party
Total Raised: $4,264,352
Corporate: $1,699,139
Union: $2,510

NDP Union Total - SK Party Business Difference =  $1,487,982.10

Total Raised: $908,542.40
Corporate: $28,683.09
Union: $47,783.48

Sask Party
Total Raised: $2,731,762
Corporate: $894,638
Union: $990

NDP Union Total - SK Party Business Difference = $864,854.52

Total Raised: $1,177,515.47
Corporate: $24,004.82
Union: $137,108.09

Sask Party
Total Raised: $2,680,215
Corporate: $992,887
Union: $1,801

NDP Union Total - SK Party Business Difference = $855,778.91

Total Raised: $956,597.01
Corporate: $25,055.85
Union: $73,977.64

Sask Party
Total Raised: $3,267,950
Corporate: $1,042,015
Union: $3,702

NDP Union Total - SK Party Business Difference = $968,037.36

Total Raised: $2,096,988.92
Corporate: $609,088.08
Union: $325,552.25

Sask Party
Total Raised: $6,113,499
Corporate: $3,086,535
Union: $10,752

NDP Union Total - SK Party Business Difference = $2,760,982.75

So, looking at the numbers, what do you notice?

Effectively, since 2011, the SK Party has had nearly $1 Million dollars more each year in corporate donations than the NDP received in Union donations. So, Wall's defence that the NDP takes union money so his party can take corporate money falls apart when you look at the actual numbers being donated.

Wotherspoon and the NDP are right: It's time to put an end to corporate, union, and out-of-province donations in Saskatchewan.

One more note on this matter before we wrap up the post.

A reason why these out-of-province donations are especially problematic in Saskatchewan is because of the Saskatchewan Party's policy towards paying their leader a "top-up" salary in addition to monies received by being MLA/Leader of the Opposition/Premier.

Wall came under heat, slightly, after the practice was noted in BC for Liberal Premier Christy Clark. Wall and Clark, to public knowledge, are the only two sitting Premiers who receive a top-up salary from their party.

Wall receives $37,000 a year from the party (which is an additional $148,000 over the course of a four year legislative term), and now with the question of out-of-province donations this issue becomes infinitely trickier.

While it is true that a party more or less has the right to spend their donations as they see fit, there are serious implications to consider when you are receiving out of province money and making direct payments to your leader at the same time...Especially if your leader is also the current Premier.

While it's not as bad as direct payment to Wall from these companies, it's close to it, given that monies are being rendered to a party and the party is then using those monies to provide a salary to their leader.

It may not be dishonest, or even improper on the face of it, but it's ethically dodgy and just enough of a "oh, that seems wrong" thought for it to warrant a degree of concern. And while you can argue that their donation is just part of the money raised by the party, it would be impossible to link it to the leader's top-up, there's still a perception of this being quite ethically questionable.

And for Wall, and his party, the only way they're going to be able to put that to bed is to fundamentally prove, once and for all, that the Saskatchewan Party is standing up for the people of Saskatchewan. And a good way to prove that, would be to make sure only the people of Saskatchewan have any sort of say in how OUR representatives are elected.

So, I guess, ultimately: For a party that uses the provincial name, it's time for them to put their money where their mouth is and either close off Saskatchewan's electoral financing to out of province actors...Or maybe think about changing their party name.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks. Well written article