Friday, January 27, 2012

About those donations to the PCs from the Calgary Zoo

I was going to blog about the illegal donations to the PCs from the Calgary Zoo story the other day when the story originally broke but decided against it as illegal donation stories to the Alberta Progressive Conservatives seem to be all I have been blogging about lately. But here we go again, but this time with a twist.

The original story was broken by the Wildrose on Wednesday with details that the "Calgary Zoo Inc" was issued 2 tax receipts from the Banff-Cochrane Progressive Conservative Association for a total of $725.00. This of course appears to be another in the long line of illegal donations that the PCAA has received over the last few year as "The Calgary Zoo is wholly owned by the City of Calgary and as such under the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosures Act [Section 1 (l)] it is prohibited from contributing to political parties."

Seems pretty clear cut; another in the latest of a long line of illegal donation stories had come to surface but early Thursday came a response from the Calgary Zoo who in full spin mode were trying to explain the donations. From The Calgary Herald: But a spokesperson, Laurie Skene, said the zoo is not wholly owned by the City of Calgary and broke no law when it made a contribution to a golf fundraiser event for Banff-Cochrane MLA Janis Tarchuk.

It looks like the Zoo is trying to parse words here in an effort to defend themselves but it doesn't really matter if the City of Calgary 'wholly' owns the zoo, owns 1% or owns 99% because the issue is a total red herring.

Let me explain.

First off the Wildrose claim that the Calgary Zoo is wholly owned by the City of Calgary is not 100% accurate, but that is no fault of the Wildrose as that exact wording appears on the zoo website: The Calgary Zoo is owned by the City of Calgary, which has entered into an operating agreement with the Calgary Zoological Society to manage the facility on behalf of the citizens of this city. 

So what is the truth? From their financials it appears that the City of Calgary does indeed own the zoo; that is it owns the land and the buildings (not sure on the animals but that doesn't really matter), and provides the zoo with taxpayer dollars to operate. Calgary though does not run the zoo, that is done by the Calgary Zoological Society who have a contract with the city to run it until 2015 and this seems to be what the zoo spokesperson was using to cloud the issue of who exactly owns the zoo, and of course whether they are allowed to contribute to a political party. But as I noted earlier it does not matter in the least because even if the city owned 1% of the zoo and the Zoological Society the other 99%  (here is that twist I mentioned earlier)

The Calgary Zoological Society is a "not-for-profit organization and is a registered charity under the Income Tax Act of Canada" and cannot by law make any donations to any political party or candidate at any level of government.

By playing word games trying to defend themselves from possible violations of Alberta elections law they have all but admitted to breaking federal law and risk losing their non profit charitable status. Well done Calgary Zoo, well done.  Anyone from the CRA listening?

Quick AM update:

One last question: I know that the PC supporters are always trying to spin the multitude of illegal donations as simple mistakes or one offs, but I have to ask. How is it possible to issue 2 tax recipients to a group named "Calgary Zoo Inc" and not have any questions come up or alarm bells go off saying that something might not be right here?  Remember; it is this very same party that we have entrusted with looking after all of Alberta's finances.

This donation scandal becomes a national embarrassment."If Albertans get angry enough to rid themselves of their one-party state, perhaps they will come to understand the best part of democracy: Our ability to kick the bastards out of office."

Alberta deserves better. Let's give the PCs the boot.

Monday, January 23, 2012

More illegal donations from AHS to the Alberta Progressive Conservative party...

You have to wait hours before even seeing a doctor in our emergency rooms and months to see a specialist. They think nothing of putting Granny on a stretcher and parking her as the third patient in room designed only to hold 2 patients after waiting a day in the emergency department.

But yet they have the time and extra money to donate to Redford's PC party.

Calgary Laboratory Services, which describes itself as a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of the Superboard, donated $3,000 to the PCs in 2004 and $850 in both 2009 and 2010, according to Elections Alberta disclosure statements.

CLS was incorporated in 1996 with the former Calgary Health Region (CHR) as the 49% owner and MDS Kasper Laboratories as the majority owner. Before 2006, MDS sold 25% of its share to CHR and on April 4, 2006 sold its remaining 25% to CHR – making the Alberta government through CHR the sole owner of Calgary Lab Services

Update: Donations confirmed by Alberta Health Services Chief Financial Officer: Chris Mazurkewich, the Chief Financial Officer of AHS, admitted this morning that the donations took place, were wrong and AHS would begin an internal investigation immediately.

This is beyond believable that this type of thing can occur in Alberta, but after 40 yrs of 1 party rule it is inevitable.

We need a change of government now. It is the only thing that will stop the rot.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It makes it tough for Redford to blame the victim if the PCs are the ones doing the asking.

In what has become an almost daily occurrence in Alberta, new revelations come out about the Progressive Conservatives and illegal donations.

Since 2007, the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta has sent at least 16 explicit invites to their Premier’s Dinner fundraisers to groups prohibited by law from attending, the Wildrose Caucus revealed today. “Please join us in our evening of appreciation knowing that your support and the support of others will contribute to a strong provincial PC party,” reads a letter sent from PC Alberta to Thorhild County, inviting them to attend the Premier’s Dinner held on Aug. 24, 2011.  Many more examples can be found at link.

According to Section 34(1)(2) of the Election Finances and Contributions Distribution Act, it is illegal for political parties to solicit money from groups such as municipalities, school districts and post-secondary schools.

So far the standard PC spin has been that it is not their fault and decided that blaming the victims rather than taking any responsibility was the way to deal with this mess. Essentially saying that municipalities and prohibited groups such as schools are the ones in error because they gave the PC's the money, no matter that the PCs happily cashed those cheques and have yet to return any of the money (using this money would also be against the law), but considering that the PCs have been actively soliciting municipalities and other prohibited groups makes their desperate attempts at spin all the more laughable.

Speaking of laughable:

Redford: "and we are going to have no part in any kind of practice or procedure that would suggest that that was acceptable." (remember that the newest of these allegations involve a dinner for Premier Redford)

The problem appears to be systemic:

And making matter worse is the fact that the PCs are not only blaming the victims but are hiding behind Alberta election laws (which they conveniently wrote) that keeps these investigations and findings private, out of the public view.

The PCAA has to go, Albertans deserve better than this.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A question for Alberta PC supporters.

Actually this may turn out to be more than one question over the next little while but for today I would like to ask the PCAA supporters who read this blog a question. Of course others are also welcome to add their 2 cents as well.

What was the last thing that Alberta's PC government has done, legislation wise, that you would consider to be 'conservative'? 

I have a long list of things that this government has done that nobody in their right mind would consider as being conservative but that will have to wait as now it is your turn to give examples of conservative legislation or policy from our government.

The comments are open.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The future under Alison Redford?

(coming soon to a local paper near you)
A family celebration took a strange twist yesterday for an Alberta Family:

A mother was fined  yesterday for smoking while her 18 year old son present with her in the car.

She had just picked up her son, a private in the Canadian Armed Forces, after he had recently returned from duty in Afghanistan as part of Canada's ongoing training of the Afghan Army when police stopped her and issued the fine. The 2 were headed to a family gathering celebrating the sons return and the mother had just informed her son that he would not be able to drink any alcohol at the celebration due to recent changes to Alberta's drinking age brought in by Premier Alison Redford who maintains that "Albertans have asked us to do this" and added "Won't somebody please think of the children!" 

To make matters worse the mother who during the incident had become distraught called her husband who was already at the celebration only minutes away, but when he arrived police seized his vehicle and took his licence after he had blown a 0.05 on a roadside device. Pleas to the officers that he had only had one drink and had finished it less that 5 minutes previous to blowing fell upon deaf ears as he watched his work vehicle being towed away.

When asked for comment the Son said "WTF, is this really Alberta?"


Think such a scenario is impossible? Think again.

Banning smoking in cars + Raising the legal drinking age to 19  = what you read above becoming a real possibility.  As for Bill 26, we need not look beyond our neighbours in BC to see what kind of problems we can expect to see soon here in Alberta.

Is this really the Alberta we want?  It is time for a change.

Monday update: Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security Jonathan DenisTweeted:

"No changes to Alberta's drinking age. #ableg"

Good, but I have this nagging feeling that this was a trial balloon and that raising the drinking age was indeed on Redford's radar.

Friday, January 13, 2012

It's Friday, time for another illegal Alberta PC donation.

Another day another revelation of Progressive Conservatives accepting illegal donations:

"The Medicine Hat Catholic School Board says it did improperly buy tickets to Premier Alison Redford’s leader’s dinner -  and has likely been breaking provincial laws against making donations to political parties for the last seven years."

7 years! ( the provision making it illegal for schools to donate became law in 2004)

I feel sorry for my PCAA friends, it can't be easy making excuses for their support while turning a blind eye to almost daily revelations of illegal donations being accepted by the PC party.


School board officials say they have attended PC fundraisers for years for "networking"

Wildrose press release that started it all this AM.

An attempt to make it all go away: Tweet from Joey Oberhoffner:

@RAndersonMLA Unbelievable is right. As in: "Didn't happen." #ableg

What the link in the tweet used to bring up: (Target has been edited to now go to story linked to at top which refers* to the following, now deleted?)

"The Wildrose Party’s latest blast at the Tories over improper donations appears to have fizzled.
Wildrose issued a news release Friday saying the Progressive Conservatives took illegal donations at Premier Alison Redford’s leaders dinner in Medicine Hat last fall.
It cites a report from the Medicine Hat Catholic School Board saying the board had purchased five tickets for the dinner. Under provincial election law, school divisions are “prohibited corporations” not allowed to make partisan political donations.
But Peter Grad, chairman of the Catholic board, said in an interview board members had purchased the tickets themselves and were not reimbursed by the school division.
He also said the party had not solicited the board to buy tickets to the Oct. 20 event.
The chief electoral officer is investigating 10 Tory constituency associations and a number of municipalities and organizations over alleged illegal contributions"

* "This blog initially reported the comments of Peter Grad, chairman of the Catholic board, who had  told the Herald in an interview that board members had purchased the tickets themselves and were not reimbursed by the school division. Leahy said Grad was mistaken."

From Yesterday: How the PCs are blaming the victims. 

From Tuesday: It keeps getting worse: PC's accepted $15K in illegal donations...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It keeps getting worse: PC's accepted $15K in illegal donations...

Hot on the heels of news that at least 10 Alberta Progressive Conservatives riding associations are being investigated for accepting or soliciting illegal donations comes news that the PC's accepted $15,000 in illegal donations from the University of Lethbridge. 

"The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta collected more than $15,000 in illegal donations from the University of Lethbridge between 2004 and 2007, the Wildrose Caucus revealed today. 
According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (see chart below), the PC party collected $15,075 in contributions from the U of L for Premier’s Dinners, golf tournaments, “Meet the Minister” dinners, and party policy conferences.
Under the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, political parties are prohibited from soliciting and accepting contributions from groups such as municipalities, post-secondary schools, and other public institutions."

I doubt that this is even close to being the end of it either.

After 40 years of the PC's holding majority power in Alberta this type of nonsense and entitlement thinking runs rampant through all levels of our government and bureaucracy; the only way to stop it is to replace those who after 40 years continue to believe that they are entitled to rule, make up the rules, and that they themselves are above those rules.

Alberta, it is time for a change.  Lets put an end to PC cronyism, entitlement, and systemic intimidation before it is too late.

UPDATE: The University of Lethbridge response can be found here.

Of note are the following lines:

1. In the fall 2005, the University of Lethbridge was notified of changes to the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act.

2.    As soon as the University of Lethbridge was notified of changes to the Act, University Administration, the Board of Governors and the Board Finance and Audit Committee took immediate steps to ensure the University was in compliance with the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act.

Small problem. It was unlawful for any school, including the U of Lethbridge, to donate money to political parties LONG before fall 2005 and whether they were aware or not of this fact does not change at all the truth that illegal donations that were made and were accepted by the PCAA

This Editorial, published before the U of Lethbridge story was known, in The Calgary Herald nails the real problem.

"We needn't qualify this by using "alleged" illegal contributions because elected officials in Alberta municipalities have publicly admitted it's been going on for years. Four decades of Progressive Conservative rule is so inculcated in Alberta that elected representatives in some small municipalities thought it was standard operating procedure for them to financially support their local MLA"

Here is something that might surprise you:

"The problem is we'll never know. Under Alberta's legislation, the results of the investigation will not be made public."

Surprise! They make the rules and conveniently enough those rules will end up shielding the PC party so that we will never know.

We need a change now.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Susan Elliot, campaign manager for Alberta PC's & Alison Redford, meet the internet.

The following is a now deleted Facebook posting made January 6th, 2012 by Susan Elliot "campaign manager 2012 for PC Alberta and Premier Alison Redford". (highlighting mine)

"Susan Elliot
is disappointed that PM Harper today appointed a Senator from Alberta, knowing full well that at least six people from two parties are actively campaigning for the job, with a vote to be held within a few months. While the list he chose from may be technically valid, it is 7 years old. It is disrespectful to urge provinces to hold a vote, and when they schedule one, to act in advance of it being held."

 Welcome to the internet Susan. It never forgets.

Speaking of disrespectful:

The richness of a PC mouthpiece calling PM Harper disrespectful while ignoring the facts that it was her party, where Alison Redford was cabinet minister and cheerfully agreed with the policy that 'postponed' the last senate election scheduled in 2010 and arbitrarily extended the terms of those elected senators by 3 years until December 2013, (The reasoning spin was that it was to save money, but the real reasons are well known.) is one thing, but deleting it from the internet in a brazen attempt to make it disappear in the name of partisan politics reeks of the arrogance that has overtaken the Alberta Progressive Conservatives and insults our intelligence.

This crap is pure political hackery. It really is time for a change in this province.

Bonus: More love from a PC supporter.

@Pjhwalsh tweeted: @PrairieStorm2 @brockwharrison @crockatteer @susan_elliott I'm not sure but I think that was the slogan for the SS 

Yes. SS

In reply to PrairieStorm2: @BrockWHarrison @Crockatteer @Pjhwalsh @susan_elliott Good on you Brock. #pcaa can run but they can't hide from the scrutiny of #wrp.

Friday, January 06, 2012

The CBC Ombudsman essentially finds police chief Blair to be a liar.

The title pretty much sums it up.

CBC Ombudsman report on Rob Ford's 911 call. (PDF)

"Resolution of such a dispute requires an impartial investigation. In view of the fact the Toronto Police Service depends on budget deliberations headed by the mayor, and in view of the fact this year’s police budget that averted layoffs was reached only in the week before this incident, I concluded CBC could not rest on Blair’s account. Not only were its sources adamant about their information, the chief was not a disinterested party."

"I did not find a violation of CBC Journalistic Standards"

Call me crazy but taking the word of an anonymous source(s), who may or may not have heard ANYTHING (because CBC refuses to tell us who they are) over the Chief of Police for the City of Toronto who we know has heard the tapes and has publicly said so, does not sound like high journalistic standards to me.

BC Blue has an update here: Police spokesperson Mark Pugash: “Chief Blair listened to the calls, the CBC did not. Chief Blair’s account is accurate and truthful, he stands by what he said, and Mr. LaPointe’s suggestion that the ongoing budget process makes the chief  ‘not a disinterested party’ is completely wrong” Link.

The Toronto Sun has the story here.

late update: OPP commissioner listens to tapes, confirms Blair's account and further makes the CBC look incompetent for standing by the obviously wrong story.   

If there was ever any doubt the CBC had its own agenda, this should remove those doubts.