Report by Public Interest Alberta calls for political financing reforms to ensure fair and equitable elections.
Edmonton (3 July 2009) - Alberta has the least democratic political financing laws in Canada, says the advocacy group Public Interest Alberta (PIA).
Calling for reform based on effective practices elsewhere in Canada, the group's Democracy Task Force has released a report illustrating how far out of date the province has drifted after nearly 40 years of one-party rule.
The Conservative Party has ruled Alberta since 1970, often with massive majorities and little effective opposition in the legislature.
Task force chair Larry Booi says the spirit guiding PIA's report is based on a 2004 Supreme Court of Canada report (Harper v. Canada) setting out a key principle of democracy:
Elections are fair and equitable only if all citizens are reasonably informed of all the possible choices and if parties and candidates are given a reasonable opportunity to present their conditions so that election discourse is not dominated by those with access to greater financial resources.
“If the government is at all serious about wanting to improve the democratic process in Alberta," Booi says, "it should adopt the realistic and effective practices that are clearly evident elsewhere in our country.”
The report show how far behind Alberta lags on fair party financing rules:
- Alberta is one of the only Canadian jurisdictions that places no limit on campaign spending by party or candidates during an election.
- Alberta’s contribution limits of $15,000 annually (and $30,000 in an election year) are double those of the next least restrictive province.
- Alberta requires no disclosure of contributions below $375. The threshold in other Canadian jurisdictions ranges from $50 to $250.
- Canada's federal government, Manitoba and Quebec ban corporate and union contributions. Alberta has no policy on who may contribute.
- Unlike several other provinces and the federal government, Alberta provides no public allowances for political parties and does not have any system of reimbursement for election expenses.
- Alberta has no financial rules governing nominations for political parties or for the conduct of leadership races.
“It’s time for the Alberta government to take a bold step and become a leader in improving our campaign and party finance laws," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, PIA's executive director.
“PIA’s advocacy campaign will engage Albertans across the province and the political spectrum to build a network of people calling for more democracy in Alberta beginning with the crucial area of campaign and party finance reform.”
PIA is an organization focused on education and advocacy on public interest issues. It exists to foster an understanding of the importance of public services, institutions and spaces in Albertans' lives and to build a network of organizations and individuals committed to advancing the public interest.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE