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Calgary campaign finance: Show me the mayor money?

Questions on municipal campaign finance for Calgary’s upcoming election have jumped off to an early start, with one candidate challenging the field to show the money.

Currently, rules around municipal campaign finance disclosure don’t require candidates to list donation origin until after the election. A recent change by the Alberta government bars the city from making an election bylaw forcing disclosure before election day.

The matter was discussed by Calgary city council in November. At that time, Coun. Jeromy Farkas asked if a link to voluntary disclosure could be included on a candidate’s bio on the Elections Calgary website. It was seconded by Coun. Jyoti Gondek.

There was concern about candidates having websites and the appearance of impartiality by Elections Calgary that ultimately killed the idea. Further, including a link for a non-statutory requirement could unduly influence voters, councillors heard at the time.

On Wednesday, mayoral candidate Brad Field said with the recent addition of councillor Jeff Davison to the field of candidates, there’s a promise of status quo in the city leadership.

“But Calgarians are telling me – and I truly believe – that they are ready for real change. Part of that change is the openness and transparency that goes along with opening up the kimono to see each candidate’s donor list,” read a prepared statement from the Field campaign.

“That is why today I am urging all mayoral candidates to commit to start releasing their donor lists each month during the campaign beginning on July 18, three months ahead of the election.”

Response from other candidates

Two mayoral candidates had immediate responses, including the latest entrant, Jeff Davison.

His campaign said when their campaign website is in full swing, voters will be able to view donations as they come in and are vetted and verified. The campaign said the donor information will populate automatically.

Jan Damery’s campaign team said they would begin posting their campaign finances on a monthly basis starting May 28. On their website, under the donor panel, Damery informs donors that names and amounts will be posted monthly

Jyoti Gondek’s campaign has a different approach, given the donor levers that are influencing candidates – and campaigns – in this election.

“We will not commit to sharing our donor list at this time. We have no confidence in some of our fellow candidates, Third Party Advertisers and other groups trying to influence the election,” a message from the campaign read.

The campaign team for Jeromy Farkas said their candidate has been a leader in asking for advanced disclosure.

“Jeromy is committed to openness and transparency both in campaigning and in government. In 2017, Jeromy was one of few candidates for City Council to disclose his donors prior to election day. As Councillor, he is on record advocating for the Province to require proactive disclosure,” a statement from the campaign read.

Prior to election day, Farkas will voluntarily disclose a list of donors, and encourages other candidates for Mayor and Council to join him in doing so, the statement read.

The statement didn’t indicate if the Farkas campaign would follow the monthly mandate put forth by Field.

More candidate responses

Responses were sought from all but one candidate. Here’s a summary of the other responses received.

Dean Hopkins: I support campaign financial disclosure one week prior to early election voting. I also support the disclosure of donations on a monthly basis, plus fundraisers should be required to give itemised lists of individual donors at those events. Elections Calgary should consider implementing these proposals and make them mandatory requirements. 

Zac Hartley: “I support full transparency with regards to all aspects of finance during and after this election.  I will be posting monthly reports on www.zacformayor.com to keep people up to date on my campaign finance, these reports will include the amount of donations collected, and where that money is being spent.  I do not plan to share personal information of any donors due to security and privacy concerns.”

Teddy Ogbonna: “Teddy’s campaign would disclose the accounts statement monthly starting in June from CIBC though his social media accounts.”

Shaoli Wang: “I have no interest.”

Larry Heather: “This kind of disclosure before the reporting period works only for Candidates on the left.  Anyone on the right will have their donors harassed by the leftist trolls and threatened. That is just how things work now, so no, no disclosure of donors.”

We will continue adding candidate responses as they are received.