Alberta says restrictions on political donations just the start of reforms

Alberta’s justice minister says a bill to ban corporate and union donations to political parties is just the start of democratic reform.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s justice minister says a bill to ban corporate and union donations to political parties is just the start of democratic reform.

Kathleen Ganley said Tuesday that a new, all-party legislature committee will be looking at other issues related to campaign financing, including donation limits and whether to extend a similar ban to municipal politics.

“Bill 1 is the beginning of our government’s work to renew democracy in Alberta,” Ganley told reporters.

“Ensuring Albertans can continue to fully exercise their democratic rights is something that is very important and close to the hearts of the premier and this government.”

Bill 1, An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta, bans corporate and union donations to political parties retroactive to when it was introduced on Tuesday.

Former Progressive Conservative governments have long received the vast majority of corporate donations, totalling into the millions of dollars.

Opponents said it not only skewed the playing field but suggested that decisions by the province were for sale to the highest bidder.

The NDP benefited as well, from unions. In 2014, the NDP received almost $85,000 in union donations, more than 10 per cent of all fundraising.

Ganley said the committee, with nine government members and eight opposition members, will look at the larger reform issues including donation limits.

Right now, individuals can contribute up to $15,000 to a party a year, double that in election years.

All parties in the legislature except the PCs have said they would support the bill barring any changes.

But PC Leader Ric McIver said his nine-member caucus will not support the legislation.

He said the bill will just drive corporations to find other ways to funnel money to political parties, and he said the bill favours funding to the NDP.

Ganley disagreed.

“I don’t think it’s an attempt to skew in favour of any particular party,” she said.

“I think it’s an attempt to skew in favour of ordinary Albertans so that they are the ones that have the loudest voice in our election financing.”

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