Mason has a point (or at least the start of one)

By Harold Jansen on Feb 12, 2008

NDP leader Brian Mason is proposing an end to corporate and union donations to political parties in Alberta. Mason is pitching this as something that would eliminate (or at least reduce) corruption in Alberta. I'm not entirely convinced that this will make much of a difference on that front, but Mason is correct in pointing to the deficiencies in Alberta's party finance laws. Compared to other provinces in Canada (and to the federal government), Alberta has very little in either regulation of spending or in public reimbursements that would help to make political parties more competitive and able to communicate with the public. A ban on corporate and union donations might be part of the solution, but it needs to be part of a more comprehensive review of how we regulate party and election finance in this province.

Incidentally, this also points to the relative lack of discussion about the democratic deficit in Alberta so far in the election. Alberta's democractic institutions are in sorry shape, but Mason's foray into this field has been the only discussion of this thus far. I'm thinking this doesn't resonate particularly well with voters, who seem more preoccupied with what government does, not how it does it or why how government does things affects what it does (if you follow me).

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Respect +

I was particularly impressed with Brian Mason's stand considering the NDP traditionally gets a lot of support from Unions. This is a principled stand and the move earns respect, at least from my corner.

Banning Corporate and Union Donations - Where is the Proof?

NDP leader Brian Mason is proposing an end to corporate and union donations to political parties in Alberta. Mason is pitching this as something that would eliminate (or at least reduce) corruption in Alberta.

I’m going to have to play the devils advocate here and ask where is the proof that removing non-personal donations to political parties reduces corruption?

I fail to see how removing a legitimate and long used method of funding political action can suddenly eliminate corruption. If you look at some of the recent political scandals in Canada, most of them involved illegal activities in the first place. New laws restricting and or regulating donations and donors isn’t going to stop someone from breaking the law.

I’m on the side of transparency not banning. Give the general public, researchers, news media, etc the ability to see who is giving what, when and how. Perhaps a non-profit/non-partisan website that could provide a searchable database containing political contribution info - eg, donor, amount, date, etc.

Clarification

Just to clarify - I am aware of the political contribution reporting provided by Election.ca.

I'm interested in seeing a more user-friendly database tool - have you ever tried to use the Financial Reports provided by Elections.ca? - that could be used by any level of government to promote transparency in political contributions.

Perhaps something similar to what is being done by Center for Responsive Politics, with OpenSecrets.org [http://www.opensecrets.org]

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