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Democracy Watch calls on Alberta government to have independent prosecutor examine donations and communications from construction companies

Bribery provisions in Criminal Code cover offers of benefits in respect of future government actions, even if the government never does anything

Friday, April 26, 2013

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on the Alberta government to have an independent special prosecutor determine whether charges should be laid in the case of political donations and communications from construction companies to Premier Alison Redford and former Premier Ed Stelmach.

“The Criminal Code anti-bribery provisions make it illegal to even offer any money directly or indirectly to any politician for their benefit in respect of anything to be done by that politician, even if the politician never does anything, and in my opinion the communications from the construction company representatives to the premiers cross that line because they link past donations, and future donations, to expected government actions,” said Duff Conacher, Board member of Democracy Watch and Adjunct Professor of Good Governance and Ethics Law at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.  “Because the donations are to the premier and the ruling party, an independent special prosecutor is needed to determine whether charges should be laid, and given that there are very few past court rulings about these Criminal Code provisions, the special prosecutor should explain fully and publicly if they decide not to prosecute because it seems to me that a full examination of the evidence and detailed ruling by the courts is advisable in this situation.”


Clause 119(1)(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada states:

Corruption and disobedience

Bribery of judicial officers, etc.

119. (1) Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years who

(a) being the holder of a judicial office, or being a member of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, directly or indirectly, corruptly accepts, obtains, agrees to accept or attempts to obtain, for themselves or another person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by them in their official capacity, or

(b) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives or offers to a person mentioned in paragraph (a), or to anyone for the benefit of that person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by that person in their official capacity.

and clause 121(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code states:

Frauds on the government

121. (1) Every one commits an offence who

(a) directly or indirectly

(i) gives, offers or agrees to give or offer to an official or to any member of his family, or to any one for the benefit of an official, or

. . .

a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind as consideration for cooperation, assistance, exercise of influence or an act or omission in connection with

(iii) the transaction of business with or any matter of business relating to the government, or

(iv) a claim against Her Majesty or any benefit that Her Majesty is authorized or is entitled to bestow,

whether or not, in fact, the official is able to cooperate, render assistance, exercise influence or do or omit to do what is proposed, as the case may be; . . .”


As reported by CBC, one construction company official sent Premier Stelmach a letter that states: “We continue to support the Conservative Party in whatever way we can, and please don’t hesitate to contact us and advise us on what we may be able to do to enhance our support of the party and/or support the implementation of these or other initiatives” and the initiatives referred to were appointments to the Alberta Labour Relations Board, infrastructure spending, and changes to labour regulations and legislation.

The other construction company official sent Premier Redford’s staff person an email that stated that two construction companies “. . . both made major contributions to Ms. Redford’s leadership campaign and to the PC’s election campaign fund (in Ledcor’s case up to the legislated maximum). Other members of our coalition were also significant supporters of both the Premier and the PC Party . . . I appreciate that there are huge demands on the Premier’s time and that it is difficult to arrange meetings with her.  However, there will be considerable disappointment and possibly misgivings within our coalition if I do not have something concrete to report next week” concerning developments in the review and change of the provincial labour code.

Given these and other very questionable recent situations involving political donations in Alberta, Democracy Watch also called on the Alberta government to democratize the political finance system in Alberta by:

  • banning donations and loans from businesses and other organizations to any party or candidate (including party leadership candidates, and municipal candidates and parties);
  • limiting individual donations, loans and gifts to a very low amount (no more than $200 annually);
  • requiring disclosure of all donations, loans and gifts received by any party and any type of candidate, whether or not the donation or gift is used for a campaign;
  • requiring disclosure of the employer and major affiliations of all individual donors (to prevent businesses and other organizations from funnelling donations through their employees, executives, board members and their families);
  • establishing a base level of per-vote public financing for political parties (no more than 50 cents per vote), and;
  • requiring Elections Alberta to conduct regular audits of donation patterns to reveal violations and track connections between donations and government actions.

“While the corrupting, democracy-undermining influence of secret money and bribes can unfortunately never be stopped, the Alberta government can help a lot by banning business and organization donations and loans to political parties and candidates, setting a very low limit for individual donations and loans, requiring disclosure of all donations, loans and gifts, establishing public financing, and strengthening enforcement,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.

Other than in Quebec, donation limits across Canada are much too high, and other than federally and in Manitoba and Quebec corporations and unions and other organizations are allowed to donate.  As well, other than at the federal level and in Ontario, donation disclosure rules are much too weak (and even those jurisdictions have loopholes in their disclosure rules).

And across the country, election agencies either lack investigation and auditing powers, or are failing to do regular audits, and penalties are too weak, all of which encourages violations.

Democracy Watch and its nation-wide Money in Politics Coalition, made up of 50 citizen groups with a total membership of 3 million Canadians, will continue pushing until all laws across Canada prevent the undue influence of money in politics, and the key democratic principle of one person, one vote is upheld in our political finance system.

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Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch

Tel: 613-241-5179

Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign