Mud­sling­ing drowns out any talk of poli­cies

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It didn’t take long for Al­berta’s crook-of-the-day con­test to bounce back on Premier Rachel Not­ley. On Tues­day, the UCP ac­cused her of mak­ing il­le­gal con­tri­bu­tions to the Al­berta NDP when she lived in Bri­tish Columbia. The UCP proof, such as it is, was a quote from a speech made last fall by Not­ley’s hus­band, Lou Arab. “Much to my an­noy­ance,” he said, “Rachel in­sisted that we con­tinue to make gen­er­ous monthly con­tri­bu­tions to the Al­berta NDP.” The UCP cast this as orig­i­nal sin. Not­ley re­sponded Tues­day. “My un­der­stand­ing is that if one had a res­i­dence — not was a res­i­dent, but had a res­i­dence — or earned money in the prov­ince of Al­berta, then it was ac­tu­ally al­lowed. “And both of those things were true even while we were liv­ing in B.C. So fun­da­men­tally the dif­fer­ence is that our con­tri­bu­tion — my hus­band’s and mine — was le­gal, whereas the al­le­ga­tion — if there was a con­tri­bu­tion by Mr. Ken­ney — is not le­gal.” Not­ley tossed the mud ball back to UCP Leader Ja­son Ken­ney, who made a con­tri­bu­tion to the On­tario PCs in 2016. Elec­tions On­tario records a $399 en­try from “con­trib­u­tor” Ja­son Ken­ney. Ken­ney says it was not a do­na­tion but a regis­tra­tion fee for a party con­ven­tion. Most elec­toral sys­tems, though, see such fees as con­tri­bu­tions. That pay­ment is sup­posed to be il­le­gal — if he didn’t live there. Those who are al­ready fed up with pre-cam­paign mud­sling­ing may sense an irony here. Ken­ney is be­ing blasted for claim­ing his pri­mary res­i­dence was in Cal­gary — and hence el­i­gi­ble for a ben­e­fit — when he was mostly res­i­dent in Ottawa. And yet, he’s also thumped for do­nat­ing in On­tario, the very prov­ince where he’s charged with be­ing res­i­dent all those years. There’s a fas­ci­nat­ing twist to the Ken­ney res­i­dency up­roar that I haven’t seen men­tioned in all the reams of cover­age. Ken­ney’s Cal­gary ad­dress, where he stayed with his mother, was des­ig­nated as his pri­mary home. His condo in Ottawa was re­garded as sec­ondary. What if he’d done it the other way around? Well, there wouldn’t have been a sub­sidy for the Cal­gary res­i­dence be­cause of the fol­low­ing House of Com­mons rule: “Mem­bers may not claim any rent when their sec­ondary res­i­dence is rented from a mem­ber of their im­me­di­ate fam­ily or from an em­ployee of any Mem­ber, House Of­fi­cer or Re­search Of­fice.” If that Cal­gary res­i­dence is des­ig­nated as pri­mary, though, no prob­lem. Also, the guide­lines say “the pri­mary res­i­dence is oc­cu­pied by the Mem­ber more of­ten than the other res­i­dence.” Ken­ney’s Cal­gary choice clearly didn’t clear that hur­dle. He ac­knowl­edges that he lived in Ottawa about 140 days a year and spent most of the rest on air­planes or in ho­tels. But the re­quire­ment to spend most time here has al­ways been ab­surdly un­re­al­is­tic for any fed­eral min­is­ter from Al­berta. It’s un­likely that more than a few — the lazy ones — have com­plied since, oh, 1905. Ken­ney’s choice does seem to pass other ma­jor House of Com­mons tests. “The pri­mary res­i­dence is the one de­clared on the Mem­ber’s in­come tax re­turn, and is lo­cated in the prov­ince where the Mem­ber votes and pays in­come taxes,” the rules say. The res­i­dence also has to be where the mem­ber has healthcare cover­age, a driver’s li­cence and ve­hi­cle regis­tra­tion. Ken­ney in­sists he met all th­ese cri­te­ria, and the House of Com­mons ap­proved his ar­range­ments. He says he’d wel­come a re­view by the Com­mons Board of In­ter­nal Econ­omy. There’s an­other big fac­tor that has noth­ing to do with the for­mal rules. Any Al­berta MP who for­mally de­clares Ottawa as home is ask­ing for a short ca­reer. It does not go well for a politi­cian who seems to pre­fer liv­ing there. Per­son­ally, I care less about where Ken­ney’s res­i­dence was than what his poli­cies are. We’re not hear­ing much of that through all the noisy charges and counter-charges.

Ja­son Ken­ney

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