A complaint has been filed against Ward 13 candidate Dan McLean following an event where he received prizes from local businesses to give away.
McLean said he doesn’t see an issue with it.
Ward 13 candidate Jay Unsworth’s campaign team filed the formal complaint with Elections Alberta in regards to McLean’s Stampede breakfast in July. A Facebook post raised concerns among area residents.
After seeing the post where McLean thanked 31 businesses for their donations and combing through the Elections Act in detail, Unworth’s campaign team made the decision to file the complaint.
“I mean [the Elections Act] clearly states that you can’t take donations from labour unions or organizations. You can’t take donations of any kind,” Unsworth said.
“If we’re not allowed to take donations, how can they essentially accept donations?”
‘If anything, I’m Robin Hood…’: McLean
While McLean hasn’t seen the complaint, he’s aware of it.
“I had a Stampede breakfast, a lot of people do that, and I want to promote small businesses in the area,” McLean said.
After speaking with the businesses, donations such as a free haircut were received because they were finally able to open following the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, McLean said.
“They gave them to me as I talked to them and then I turned around and gave every single thing away.”
The campaign team documented all the donations that were received and consulted legal counsel prior to the event, McLean said.
“It’s just somebody trying to make something out of nothing. There was nobody giving me money to run a golf tournament, to try to compare this to Jeff Davison … or some type of thing, where that somehow enriched me because not one dime went into my pocket,” McLean said.
“If anything, I’m Robin Hood, giving things back to the public. That’s all I have to say about that until I see what type of ridiculous complaint he made. Nothing was given to me financially [and there were] no benefits to me.”
Election authorities involved
The campaign team decided ultimately that informing the local authorities was prudent, Unsworth said.
“This isn’t about one particular candidate, it’s about ensuring that there’s a clean race for everybody. I believe everyone needs to follow the same rules in the spirit of the law. That’s the long and short of it, it’s, it’s a fair playing field for everybody,” Unsworth said.
“There’s been a lot of chatter in the news about the illegal nature of accepting corporate donations,” Unsworth’s campaign team said in an email to LiveWire Calgary.
“We don’t know for sure what’s happened here, but compared to the Davison story, this seems to be pretty straightforward.”
According to Unsworth’s campaign team, the complaint has been received by Elections Alberta and an investigation is now underway.
Head scratcher, says MRU poli sci prof
Based on McLean’s Facebook postings, it shows businesses have made contributions to what appeared to have been a campaign event. That’s not allowed under the law and it appears that a violation has occurred, said Lori Williams, a political science professor at Mount Royal University.
“I understand that there are extremely political actors involved in this campaign, people who you would have thought would know that corporate or union or other similar sorts of donations are not permitted,” Williams said.
“It’s just a little bit of a head-scratcher as to why this wasn’t flagged as at least looking like it’s inappropriate, if not actually illegal.”
If the Stampede breakfast was not affiliated with McLean’s campaign, it could be seen as something that he didn’t get any benefit from. However, the look of it being a campaign event, it appears it’s falling foul of legislation, Williams said.
“That’s exactly why the Election Commissioner is there, to investigate and ensure that no wrongdoing has occurred.”
Legality of the matter
Elections Alberta is prohibited by law from commenting on complaints or investigations, Steve Kaye, Director of Compliance and Investigations with Elections Alberta, said. Instead, he referred to the Local Authorities Election Act as opposed to any one individual’s particular campaign or activity.
The Local Authorities Election Act states in 147.2 (1) only an individual ordinarily resident in Alberta, may make the contribution to a candidate and (2) no prohibited organization and no individual ordinarily resident outside Alberta shall make a contribution to a candidate.
A “prohibited organization” refers to a corporation and an unincorporated organization, including a trade union and an employee organization.
“I think in any case where [a donation was received from] a corporation or an unincorporated organization, those would be prohibited,” Kaye said.
If any candidate received prize donations, it would fall into the category of being a donation contribution in kind. There are provisions in the legislation about valuing items other than monetary contributions, Kaye said.
Contribution or volunteer service?
In 147.1 (c) of the Election Act, “contribution” means any money, personal property, real property or service that is provided to or for the benefit of a candidate’s election campaign without fair market value compensation from that candidate.
It does not include a service provided by an individual who voluntarily performs the services and receives no compensation, directly or indirectly, in relation to the services or time spent providing the services.
“That means if you are a candidate, and I give you a $500 gift certificate to raffle off or something, that while it isn’t specifically money is real property, it has a value. If I don’t compensate you for giving me that … That should be an expense that [you] will capture. And if [you] don’t pay for it, then it is a contribution to [your] campaign,” Kaye said.
If a donation is given to a candidate and they do not compensate for the fair market value of the item, it would be deemed a campaign contribution that must be recorded, Kaye said.
“If [a candidate were to] pay for it out of [their] campaign account, it’s a campaign expense, and that will be submitted in [their] filing to the local jurisdiction … If [they] did not pay for it and accepted it, without paying for it, then [they] would capture it as a contribution from whoever provided it to [the] campaign that too would be reported in my filing to the local jurisdiction,” he said.
“Those two activities can occur provided that they are captured on the filing that a candidate submits to the local authority at the time of filing.”
“Providing it was within the contribution limits of whoever gave it, providing that it was not from a prohibited organization, and providing that [the candidate] accurately capture either that expense or that contribution in my filing, which is submitted to the local authority, [then it is within the bounds of the law].”