Alberta NDP wants review into third-party advertiser’s support of Opposition

Political Action Committees (PACs) have grown after NDP banned corporate and union donations and restricted individual donations to $4,000 annually

United Conservative Party leader, Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON — Alberta NDP’s has called for an investigation into what it calls collusion, rule breaking, and pay-to-play deals involving the United Conservative Opposition.

The New Democrats, in a letter sent Tuesday to Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson, have asked him to review the United Conservatives’ ties to the political action committee known as Shaping Alberta’s Future and the Motor Dealers’ Association of Alberta.

It comes a day after a letter surfaced from the Motor Dealers’ Association that urges members to donate to Shaping Alberta’s Future. The letter told them the motor dealer leaders met with Kenney last month and were promised beneficial legislative changes if the UCP wins the spring election.

Shaping Alberta’s Future has since raised $375,000, most of it from car dealers, and has launched a series of attack ads on radio, TV, and billboards against Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP.

Kenney’s office, in an email, denied that anything was promised.

“Soliciting policy proposals from stakeholders does not equal a promise to act and Mr. Kenney has made no such promises to the (Motor Dealers’ Association),” said UCP spokesperson Christine Myatt in an emailed statement.

Kenney was not available for comment.

The association letter, sent out after its board met with Kenney on Sept. 6, said the UCP promised to, among other things: cancel changes to labour legislation passed by the NDP; meet with industry officials seeking to roll back recent changes to industry oversight; and, put through a bill banning right-hand-drive Asian vehicles.

Government House Leader Brian Mason said the motor dealers are seeking to claw back recently passed consumer protection rules for car buyers, which includes no false and misleading advertising.

“They want to reverse all those changes and Mr. Kenney is the person that they expect will do that for them in exchange for very large donations,” Mason told reporters at the legislature.

“If you think that Jason Kenney has not made some commitments to the used car dealers of this province in exchange for money, then I’ve got a great deal for you on the High Level Bridge.”

Denis Ducharme, president of the Motor Dealers’ Association, rejected NDP accusations that they had broken financing laws. He said Kenney did not promise to make legislative changes and that the letter, written by committee, went too far.

“I know the wording might have been worded a little too strongly,” said Ducharme.

“When you write a letter by committee, sometimes some people will put a little heavier wording into it for a call to action.”

Ducharme said they asked members to contribute to Shaping Alberta’s Future because they are concerned with changes made to car sales under the NDP. Ducharme said they don’t want to hurt consumers, but said the rules as they stand are an unfair regulatory and financial burden to the industry.

“Right now the field is not even,” said Ducharme.

David Wasyluk, executive director of Shaping Alberta’s Future, said in an email that his group “has fully complied with the requirements of the (fundraising rules). We have worked proactively with officials from Elections Alberta to ensure our activities are compliant. This complaint is without merit.”

Political action committees have grown in Alberta after the NDP banned corporate and union donations and restricted the amount of individual donations to parties to $4,000 a year.

The PACs can support parties but can’t engage in direct political activities, such as conducting and sharing polling information on voters.

The NDP alleges Shaping Alberta’s Future is doing just that and, as in the case of the Motor Dealers’ Association, “effectively acting as a fundraising apparatus for the UCP.”

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