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Group launches letter-writing campaign calling on Prime Minister Harper to come clean about who paid off his leadership campaign costs

Conservatives’ weakening of environmental protections and refusal to act on climate change raises question about whether biggest donations that helped make Harper party leader caused an ongoing conflict of interest


Monday, December 15, 2014

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch launched a letter-writing campaign calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to finally come clean about who paid off his costs of winning power. The campaign page is at:

“The public has a right to know who gave Prime Minister Harper more than $2 million to help him win power, especially the identities of the biggest donors, so they can judge whether those donations have influenced his decisions,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“Were Prime Minister Harper’s biggest donors oil and gas companies or climate change deniers or foreign-owned companies?” asked Conacher. “Democracy Watch is launching this campaign because it’s long overdue for Prime Minister Harper to come clean about who paid off his costs of winning power.”

In 2002, Stephen Harper campaigned and won the leadership of the Canadian Alliance Party. Since then, he has disclosed the identities of only 54 of the donors to his campaign. Prime Minister Harper has kept secret the identities of 10 of his biggest donors, and thousands of other donors, even though they donated more than $900,000 of the $1.1 million he raised for his campaign.

In 2004, Stephen Harper won the leadership of the Conservative Party (formed out of a merger of the Canadian Alliance Party and the old Progressive Conservative Party) and spent more than $2 million on his campaign. According to Tom Flanagan, Harper raised $2.7 million with about half (ie. about $1.3 million) coming from 1,829 donations of more than $200. Since then, the list of the biggest donors to his campaign (he may have kept some of them secret) has disappeared from the Conservative Party’s website.

When Prime Minister campaigned to be party leader in 2002 and 2004, secret, unlimited donations by big businesses, including foreign-owned big businesses operating in Canada, were legal. Big businesses and their executives could have given Harper hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, in secret.

Were Prime Minister Harper’s donors all or mostly oil and gas and pipeline companies and their executives? Were they major polluters? Were they large foreign-based companies that want weaker corporate responsibility laws in Canada? Were they companies owned or controlled by the Koch brothers from the U.S. – notorious opponents of environmental protection and other corporate responsibility laws?

Given the amounts involved, and given that even small gifts have been proven scientifically to be one of the most potent ways to influence decisions, and given that the Conservatives under Prime Minister Harper have weakened environmental protection regulations and refused to regulate oil and gas companies or address climate change, the public has a right to know who paid off Harper’s campaign costs so they can determine whether those donations may be still influencing Harper’s decisions.

Donations to federal parties, election candidates and riding associations from corporations, unions and other organizations were effectively prohibited in January 2004, and then essentially fully prohibited in January 2007. However, the federal Conservatives recently raised the annual donation limit for individuals from $2,400 to $3,000 (and during an election year from $3,600 to $4,500).

“By increasing individual donation limits, the federal Conservatives have made it easy for a few executives from a big business to have undue and unethical influence over politicians by giving tens of thousands of dollars to a party and its candidates and riding associations,” said Duff Conacher. “Quebec recently lowered the individual donation limit to $100 specifically to reduce the undemocratic influence of big money in politics.”

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: 613-241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign