EDMONTON—Alberta has introduced new rules to try to keep third parties from end-running or abusing political fundraising rules.
“Big money should have no place in politics,” Christina Gray, the minister for democratic renewal, said Monday. “Unfortunately, we have seen the formation of several third parties and political action committees that have other strong ties with other political parties and their agendas.
“When third parties or political action committees work so closely together, they are essentially able to circumvent the Fair Elections Financing Act.”
The number of political action committees has grown since Premier Rachel Notley’s government banned corporate and union donations in 2015 and later capped annual contributions by individuals at $4,000 a year.
Most of the committees have been tied to efforts to unite Alberta’s conservative parties. That goal was achieved this year when the Progressive Conservatives joined with the Wildrose party under a new name — the United Conservative Party —- and picked Jason Kenney as leader.
The bill introduced Monday would still allow corporations, unions and individuals to contribute to third-party groups. But it would forbid third parties from spending that money to sell memberships, fundraise or collect voter information for nomination or leadership races.
Third parties would also have to disclose money spent on organizing events to promote or oppose a candidate or a party.
The proposed law would also prevent them from entering into any mutually beneficial agreements designed to get around fundraising laws.
Gray said there’s no plan to stop individuals from donating their time or using their personal political contribution limit to support a candidate or party.
A new position of election commissioner would have the power to investigate breaches and levy fines and sanctions, including jail time.
The bill also proposes changing the rules on third-party advertising.
Right now, third parties can spend up to $150,000 on advertising during the four weeks of an election campaign.
That would still be allowed under Gray’s bill, but her legislation would limit third-party advertising in the run-up to an election and limit spending to no more than $150,000 prior to a scheduled election call.
By law, Notley must hold the next provincial election sometime between March 1 and May 31 in 2019.
Alberta’s Liberals have warned about the danger of third-party money influencing politics and last week introduced their own private member’s bill. It would, among other things, ban out-of-province donations.
Liberal Leader David Khan said the government’s legislation won’t do enough to keep “dark money” out of politics.
The bill also removes the six-month Alberta residency requirement to vote and adds another day of advance polling.