Penhold’s mayor is demanding an apology from Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, saying his municipality was wrongly accused of making illegal political contributions to the Progressive Conservatives.
“Donationgate? They should call it Smeargate,” said Penhold Mayor Dennis Cooper about an Alberta Liberal caucus press release issued on Monday. It identified a cheque for $609 that the Town of Penhold made out to the Innisfail PC association as a political contribution.
“Municipal governments are prohibited from donating to political parties. . . . The ongoing improper and illegal use of taxpayer dollars to support partisan political activity is a true scandal, one that weakens democracy and fosters corruption. We call it Donationgate,” the Alberta Liberal release states.
But Cooper said the only scandal is the Liberals jumping to the wrong conclusion about the cheque that was listed on a bank summary included with a town meeting agenda last September.
The mayor said the cheque was actually a repayment for some of the prepaid rent money the Innisfail PC association gave the town for use of its facilities. Because the PC association later decided to meet throughout the region instead of just in Penhold, the town repaid the unused rent, said Cooper.
He’s annoyed that nobody from the Liberals called to get the back story. “They needed to check their facts before smearing our town and putting our citizens in a bad light . . . to make some political gain.”
Whoever wrote the press release, Cooper believes Sherman should be making amends for such false and misleading statements from his party. “He should be apologizing to our town and to (PC Premier) Alison Redford.” The release also questioned when Redford would direct her party to stop soliciting and accepting illegal donations.
Jeff Melland, director of communications for the Alberta Liberal caucus, was still waiting to review Town of Penhold receipts on Monday afternoon. But after speaking to Cooper, he said, “We goofed here, it would seem.”
If the cheque turns out to be repaid rent money as the mayor says, Melland said Cooper will get an apology from the Alberta Liberals.
As to whether anybody did any fact checking before issuing the press release, Melland said he thought somebody had. “I just started here and thought calls were being made.”
If the facts weren’t checked before, they will be from now on, he added.