Alberta MLA calls on elections commissioner to investigate alleged UCP misuse of PAC money

A former UCP member is filing an official request with Alberta’s elections commissioner over allegations that Premier Jason Kenney’s office is using money from political action committees (PACs) to cover fees for certain participants at the party’s annual general meeting (AGM) this weekend.

Now an independent MLA, Todd Loewen has sent a letter to Commissioner Glen Resler, asking him to look into the legality of using the PAC money in such a way.

UCP MLA for Airdrie-Cochrane Peter Guthrie claims that PACs that support Kenney are offering to cover ticket fees, along with other favours, in exchange for votes on issues going before the party at the AGM.

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One of the issues Kenney might be looking for votes on is changing the threshold of how many constituency associations need to be aligned in order to trigger a leadership review.

Earlier this week, at least 22 offices said they are eager for a review of Kenney’s leadership, surpassing the 25 per cent threshold needed to begin the process. The UCP is looking at changing the threshold from a quarter to a third of associations.

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Loewen says in his letter to Resler that he believes using the PAC money to cover AGM fees violates two different sections of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, including Sec. 41.41(1)b, which states third parties may not spend money to support the work of registered parties, including fundraising.

He’s looking for Resler to determine whether that is in fact the case.

“I’m concerned that this could lead to an election that could be considered rigged and I don’t want that to happen,” explained Loewen. “I would like Mr. Visitor to come down with the decision on whether these activities are allowed or not.”

He says there are always rumours going around and, currently, there is no proof of the funds being used to cover AGM fees, but that is what an investigation would be for.

“I think we owe a duty to elected officials to investigate and make sure that the facts are known and make sure that we have fair elections.”

Loewen says, despite the lack of evidence, there is enough probable cause to launch an investigation.

Another letter was also sent to the elections commissioner by the NDP.

NDP MLA Thomas Dang says Kenney must respond to allegations his office is illegally funneling money from a PAC to the UCP party to try and rig the AGM.

“If Jason Kenney is so desperate that he needs to pay people to clap for him, that’s between him and the UCP membership,” said Dang, NDP Critic for Ethics and Democracy, in a statement.

“But funnelling money from a PAC into a registered political party is illegal.”

Dang says Albertans have had enough of the “endless UCP drama”.

Jason Kenney responded to the allegations Wednesday afternoon, saying it was “interesting” that reports leaked from a private caucus meeting.

“I’m not involved in third-party organizations, but third-party political organizations are free within the law to be involved in politics. And my understanding is that, for example, delegate registration fees are not considered a contribution,” he said.

“Organizations have supported the attendance of youth delegates who can’t afford to go and things like that. That’s hardly new… And I would expect fully that any organization involved is carefully following all of the relevant rules.”

Asked about whether dissent and division within the UCP keep him up at night, Kenney says dealing with a few unhappy party members is not a priority.

“What I focus on is the priority of Albertans getting the job done.”

PACs are groups that raise money and mount political campaigns. PACs support members of the party they want in power and pay for advertising that paints them in a good light while launching attack ads on members of parties they oppose.

-with files from Saif Kaisar and Tom Ross

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