Politicians question sponsorship

Two municipal politicians are raising questions about why a city-owned power utility chipped in to help bring former United States vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, to Calgary.

CALGARY — Two municipal politicians are raising questions about why a city-owned power utility chipped in to help bring former United States vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, to Calgary.

Taxpayer-funded Enmax was among a host of sponsors that chipped in to bring the former Republican candidate before a sold-out crowd on Saturday.

Gord Lowe, a city council member who sits on the Enmax board, said he was surprised to learn the utility company was involved. He plans to ask about it at the next board meeting.

“I’m not sure it’s completely inappropriate. One of the things she talked about was oil and gas and certainly Enmax is very active in the areas of clean and renewable energy,” Lowe said on Sunday.

The city is Enmax’s sole shareholder and receives an annual dividend from the company’s profits.

City council member, Ric McIver, is a vocal critic of the utility. He said because the company is funded from the public purse, there needs to be some kind of benefit to the public when events are sponsored.

“It certainly begs the question what benefit the taxpayers would get out of the sponsorship,” he said.

“When they venture into the political arena, they should be demonstrating some benefit to the taxpayer.”

Ian Todd, vice-president of government and media relations for the utility, said Enmax is no different from any other company that benefits from promoting itself through the sponsorship of high-profile events.

He noted that the company also sponsored last year’s appearance by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore and a speech by former president George W. Bush in Edmonton.

“We’re like any other corporate enterprise. We look at it as good corporate exposure,” Todd said. “We’re not playing any one side politically — we brought up Al Gore, we brought up George Bush and there will be others.”

In 2008, Enmax paid a $50 million dividend back to the city while investing $4.6 million to Alberta communities in sponsorship, marketing and community investment.

During Palin’s folksy chat with audience members who had paid up to $200 each to see her, the former governor of Alaska pointed out that her state has a lot in common with Alberta.

She noted there is good hunting, good fishing and a commitment to developing energy resources. She also said both the state and the province know it’s important to do that development responsibly.

During her speech, she also touched on climate change, saying that her skepticism about it has been proven by several recent controversies and that money shouldn’t be spent on “pie-in-the-sky, snake-oil ideas.”