Premier offering private visit for $5,000, Plan to erase campaign debt draws outrage

Jessica Ernst
Box 753 Rosebud AB T0J 2T0

Dear Editor, [Published in numerous media in Alberta]

Re: Premier offering private visit for $5,000; Plan to erase campaign debt draws outrage, Jason Fekete, January 11, 2007.

I saw Mr. Stelmach’s true colours when I read Jason Fekete’s articles on the Premier’s $5,000 private-access-to-him parties. Who can afford $5,000 for a few minutes with the Premier? For that amount a really good hooker will stay with you over night!


Jessica Ernst
Rosebud, AB

Premier offering private visit for $5,000, Plan to erase campaign debt draws outrage by Jason Fekete, January 11, 2007, Calgary Herald
Premier Ed Stelmach and two of his top ministers came under fire Wednesday, after revelations Albertans can buy “exclusive” access to them for $5,000, at fundraising soirees to be held next week in Calgary and Edmonton.
Alberta ethics commissioner Donald Hamilton said he’s “not so sure it’s a good thing to do,” but conceded there’s little that can be done under current legislation.

In an effort to retire Tory leadership campaign debts, organizers for Stelmach, Health Minister Dave Hancock, Finance Minister Lyle Oberg and former MLA Mark Norris — who all sought the party’s reins — are holding a $500-a-ticket reception in Calgary on Jan. 18. However, there’s an opportunity to attend “a smaller, more exclusive event” with Stelmach and ministers prior to the reception “for a minimum donation of $5,000,” notes the e-mail invitation to the shindig, to be held at Ranahans at Stampede Park, a luxurious private dining room mostly used for corporate entertaining. A similar fundraising reception is scheduled the following night in Edmonton.

“Both events will offer you and your colleagues an excellent opportunity to spend time with the new premier and some of his colleagues to discuss the issues the new government will face in the run-up to the next election and to make them aware of some of your key issues,” reads the invitation, which was sent to the business community.

Cheques are payable to “True Blue,” which appears to be an entity formed to fundraise for the four politicians, who teamed up on the second ballot of the Progressive Conservative leadership election to topple favourites Jim Dinning and Ted Morton. No tax receipts will be issued on the tickets.

Word of the events comes on the heels of a Tory leadership race that saw would-be premiers — most notably Stelmach — vowing to clean up government by eliminating backroom influence.

Hamilton, Alberta’s ethics commissioner, told the Herald his office is “looking at some things” that could change financial rules, but said current legislation doesn’t help him. He also noted that neither the premier nor any of the ministers talked to him on the issue. Despite Stelmach’s promises of cleaner and transparent government, little appears to have changed in Alberta, charged a leading ethics watchdog, who said the fundraising scheme is a clear conflict of interest.

“It’s still the best government money can buy,” Duff Conacher, head of Ottawa-based Democracy Watch, said Wednesday. “Access-for-cash schemes are completely unethical. . . . They (politicians) shouldn’t be there.”

Similar fundraisers have been commonplace on the federal scene in recent years, Conacher said. But federal legislation now limits campaign donations to $1,000, which is aimed at curbing influence on government officials.
Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said he’s disappointed with Stelmach and his ministers. “I expected more from Ed Stelmach. . . . It reflects poorly on all of them,” Taft said. “To be able to pay $5,000 to meet with the premier — that’s wrong.” [Emphasis added]

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