Tak­ing money out of pol­i­tics

Is­sues should be vot­ers’ fo­cus, not fundrais­ing: Knack

StarMetro Edmonton - - Front Page - Jeremy Simes metro | ed­mon­ton

Coun­cil can­di­dates will raise big money from cor­po­rate and union do­na­tions in this year’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, but not all want to par­tic­i­pate.

Coun. An­drew Knack said Fri­day he’s con­fi­dent — though still un­de­cided — he can cam­paign suc­cess­fully with­out these do­na­tions this time around.

“I would like to not ac­cept cor­po­rate or union do­na­tions for my first fundraiser. We’ll see how that goes and, if we get enough grass­roots sup­port, I think I should re­ally hold true to that,” he said. “I want peo­ple to fo­cus on the ideas and not on who can raise the most money.”

His push is reignit­ing the de­bate over tak­ing big money out of mu­nic­i­pal pol­i­tics. Dur­ing the 2013 elec­tion, 71 per cent of do­na­tions raised by win­ning can­di­dates came from cor­po­ra­tions and unions, ac­cord­ing to data crunch­ing by Metro.

The max­i­mum amount any or­ga­ni­za­tion or in­di­vid­ual can do­nate is $5,000.

Knack, who rep­re­sents ward 1, noted some peo­ple ar­gue councillors are in the pock­ets of de­vel­op­ers due to the cor­po­rate do­na­tions they re­ceived.

“Those that make those do­na­tions don’t come to you ev­ery week and say, ‘Hey, we re­ally need you to vote on this,’” he said. “That doesn’t hap­pen, but I com­pletely un­der­stand why some peo­ple feel that could hap­pen.”

Keren Tang, who’s run­ning for coun­cil in Ward 11, pledged in late Jan­uary to not ac­cept cor­po­rate or union cash.

Tang said such do­na­tions can make peo­ple think twice about city coun­cil’s de­ci­sions, es­pe­cially if they in­volve de­vel­op­ers.

City coun­cil passed a res­o­lu­tion in July 2015 that re­quested the Al­berta gov­ern­ment ban cor­po­rate and union do­na­tions in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions, as it falls un­der pro­vin­cial ju­ris­dic­tion.

Shan­non Greer, a min­istry of mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs spokesper­son, said Fri­day the province is still con­sid­er­ing the ban.

While two can­di­dates run­ning for Ed­mon­ton city coun­cil could do so with­out ac­cept­ing cor­po­rate or union do­na­tions, the rules won’t re­quire oth­ers to fol­low suit.

In July 2015, city coun­cil passed a mo­tion to see Mayor Don Ive­son re­quest Al­berta to al­low Ed­mon­ton to ban cor­po­rate and union do­na­tions in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions, in much the same way as has been done at the pro­vin­cial level. But Min­istry of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs spokesper­son Shan­non Greer said Fri­day that any re­view of the Lo­cal Author­i­ties Elec­tions Act, which gov­erns mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in Al­berta, will hap­pen af­ter Ed­mon­ton’s com­ing poll.

“In con­sul­ta­tion with our mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers it was de­ter­mined that large-scale changes to the (Act) would be too dif­fi­cult to im­ple­ment in time for the 2017 elec­tions and that changes to fi­nanc­ing rules could give in­cum­bent can­di­dates an un­fair ad­van­tage,” Greer said.

Ward 1 Coun. An­drew Knack and Keren Tang, who’s run­ning for coun­cil in Ward 11, have both said they hope to not ac­cept these do­na­tions dur­ing their push for of­fice. Tang said such do­na­tions can make peo­ple think twice about city coun­cil’s de­ci­sions, es­pe­cially if they in­volve de­vel­op­ers. “At city coun­cil you need to be work­ing with ev­ery­body and I’m open to de­vel­op­ing re­la­tion­ships with busi­nesses, de­vel­op­ers and unions, but I don’t think money needs to come into that process.”

Jeremy SimeS/metro

Keren Tang, who’s run­ning for coun­cil in ward 11, has pledged not to ac­cept cor­po­rate or union do­na­tions.

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