Alison Redford says construction company donations had no effect on awarding of contracts
New documents that reveal large political donations to the Alison Redford Progressive Conservative party from a coalition of construction companies should be investigated as possible bribes, says a national democracy watchdog group.
The correspondence, obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour under Freedom of Information requests, shows construction representatives lobbied Redford and former Premier Ed Stelmach with large donations and linked those to promises to revise provincial labour code, the AFL says.
That has Democracy Watch calling for an independent prosecutor to determine whether criminal charges should be laid.
“Someone independent [needs to] look into it and determine whether or not it’s actually a bribe, but that’s what [it looks like],” said Tyler Sommers, Democracy Watch coordinator.
The correspondence involves dozens of emails and letters between PC ministers, assistants, the two premiers and lobbyists with the Construction Competiveness Coalition which represents companies including PCL and Ledcor. Other players included anti-union organizations. Much of the correspondence centers around lobbying efforts to revise the labour code.
In one email, a construction lobbyist tells Redford’s Calgary office director that two construction companies, “…both made major contributions to Ms. Redford’s leadership campaign and to the PC’s election campaign fund. Other members of our coalition were also significant supporters of both the premier and the PC Party … there will be considerable disappointment and possibly misgivings within our coalition if I do not have something concrete to report next week.” That email was requesting a meeting with Redford to discuss changes to the labour code.
“These emails suggest that some people in power aren’t maintaining the wall that needs to exist between government and groups that seek to influence government,” said Gil McGowan, president of the AFL. “As a result, democracy in Alberta is not as strong as it needs to be.”
McGowan also called for the labour code review to be halted at once.
Redford said in the Legislature Thursday that the meeting did not take place with the coalition representative and that no preferential access was ever granted to construction donors.
“It’s not the way that we are involved in doing public policy,” Redford said, responding to opposition questions. “It is not something we subscribe to or support in any way. And it simply did not happen and will not happen in the future.”
Liberal leader Raj Sherman said in a press conference Thursday that he will ask the chief electoral officer and ethics commissioner to investigate the donations.
“How can we reasonably expect everyday, hardworking Albertans to have any confidence in the operation of government and the integrity of Alberta’s democratic process when the system does not seem trustworthy,” Sherman said.
Democracy Watch is calling for a ban on corporate donations to political parties which they say is subverting the fundamental democratic principle of equal representation. The group would also like to see individual donations limited to $200, full disclosure on all donations and regular audits from Elections Alberta.
“We need to get big money out of politics,” Sommers said.
He added that he has heard from disengaged citizens who say these things happen, people get around the rules and that they are not surprised when it does.
“But that’s not a reason to not have these rules,” he said. “That’s a reason to make these rules better and ensure as few people get around this as possible. It’s akin to saying we may as well throw the criminal code out the window because people are still committing murder and stealing.”
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