EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Dave Hancock has asked his governing Progressive Conservative party to wind down a controversial trust fund.
Hancock told reporters Monday it’s important that the $1.6 million currently sitting in the Tapcal trust fund be seen as above board.
“In the interest of openness and transparency they should have a look at it and let people know exactly what it is and why it’s there,” said Hancock.
Details of the three-decades-old fund were revealed in The National Post last week, and Hancock said he doesn’t want the issue to linger.
“I don’t need these distractions. Government doesn’t need the distraction, and if somebody thinks something is hidden, nothing is hidden,” he said.
The Tapcal fund was established in 1977 as new financing rules took effect requiring all party assets to be open to public scrutiny.
The government of then Tory premier Peter Lougheed grandfathered the fund in, exempting it from public disclosure.
But while PCs did not have to publicly disclose the assets in the fund, they still had to divulge all transactions in the fund.
The party failed to do so for two decades until Elections Alberta ordered it to in 2007.
The Tories have used the fund for campaign spending and as collateral for loans for elections.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith says there are still a lot of questions about the fund, including who contributed to it.
“This is the problem you have with the PCs,” said Smith. “They only do the right thing when they get caught doing the wrong thing.
“It seems we like we have to continue to dig around, trying to see what sort of things they’re hiding. I don’t think that engenders much confidence from the public.”
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the money from the fund should not be allowed to be used by the PCs for campaign purposes.
“I believe the funds in that secret fund should not be allowed to enter into the next election. It’s not fair, it’s not right,” said Sherman.
Hancock dismissed opposition accusations it was a secret fund, noting there had been previous disclosures.
Campaign financing has become a troublesome issue for the PCs.
Filings with Elections Alberta made public last week revealed the party raised just $2.8 million in 2013 and ran a $136,000 deficit.
The Wildrose, by comparison, raised $3.1 million and is debt free.
An election must, by law, be called sometime in the spring of 2016.