Alberta’s new Economic Recovery Council filled with political donors

Last month, the Alberta government announced the Economic Recovery Council. Here’s some background on each council member, including political donation history.

Last month, the provincial government announced the Economic Recovery Council, which they claimed would offer advice to the provincial government to navigate the economic downturn precipitated by COVID-19 and the drop in oil prices.

The council would consist of the following businesspeople, politicians, and economists.

  • Jack Mintz, chair
  • Clive Beddoe
  • Robert Blakely
  • Brent Belzberg
  • Bob Dhillon
  • Chris Fowler
  • Stephen Harper
  • Peter Kiss
  • Zainul Mawji
  • Nancy Southern
  • Kevin Uebelein
  • Mac Van Wielingen

Here’s some background on each council member, including political donation history.

Jack Mintz is the council chair. He is an economist at the University of Calgary, and he sits on the boards of Canada West Foundation, Imperial Oil, and Mourneau Shepell and is an advisor for Ernst & Young. He donated $1,000 to Jason Kenney’s UCP leadership campaign.

Clive Beddoe is one of the cofounders of WestJet and, other than a brief absence in 1999 and 2000, sat as its CEO until 2007. He’s currently president of Hanover Group of Companies and chair of SQI Diagnostics. Last year, he donated $2,000 to the United Conservative Party. His spouse, Ruth, also donated $1,000 to the UCP last year, as well as an extra $1,000 to the UCP election campaign.

Robert Blakely is partner at the law firm Blakely & Dushenski. Until last year, he had been the chief operating officer of Canada’s Building Trades Unions. In 2018, he donated $500 to the NDP, who he also donated $400 to in 2004.

Brent Belzberg is the founder and senior managing parter of TorQuest. He’s also on the board of CIBC and Mount Sinai Hospital. While I could find no direct political donations from Belzberg, his mother, Jenny, donated $4,000 to the UCP last year.

Bob Dhillon is founder, president, and CEO of Mainstreet Equity Corp., as well as founder and owner of National Payments. Dhillon donated $600 to the PC party in 2010. Mainstreet Equity donated $500 to Doug Horner’s PC 2008 campaign, $1,000 to Peter Sandhu’s 2012 PC campaign, $3,000 in 2014 and $15,000 to the PCs in 2014 and 2015, $30,000 to Jim Prentice’s 2014 PC leadership campaign, $990 to the Calgary–Greenway PC constituency association, $2,000 to Harman Kandola’s PC campaign, and $15,000 for the PC 2015 election campaign. National Payments donated $500 to the PCs in 2014, $5,000 to Jim Prentice’s PC leadership campaign.

Chris Fowler is the president and CEO of Canadian Western Bank. I could find no record of donations made by Fowler, but Canadian Western Bank donated over $80,000 to the PC party between 2004 and 2015, including Jim Prentice’s leadership campaign, and constituency associations in Edmonton–McClung (the riding where Fowler lives), St. Albert, and Whitecourt–Ste. Anne.

Stephen Harper is the founder of Harper & Associates Consulting. While he was prime minister, he incorporated Kenney into his inner circle, first as his parliamentary secretary, then as secretary of state, and finally in his cabinet with portfolios in immigration, employment, and defence. He has donated over $17,000 to political parties over the last four years, including PCs and Wildrose in 2016 and the UCP in 2017, 2018, and 2019. He also donated $1,700 to Jason Kenney’s PC leadership campaign. His spouse, Laureen, also donated $1,000 to TedMorton’s 2008 PC campaign.

Peter Kiss is the owner and president of Morgan Construction and Environmental. He had some controversy in 2016 when he tweeted that he refused to hire graduates from UBC after students there were trying to pressure UBC administration to divest its endowment of fossil-fuel investments. Kiss donated $2,750 to the Wildrose party in 2011, as well as $500 to Tim Grover’s Wildrose 2014 campaign. He donated $1,500 to the PCs in 2016 and $4,000 each in 2018 and 2019 to the UCP, as well as another $4,000 to the UCP in last year’s election. He donated $8,500 to Kenney’s PC leadership campaign and $1,000 to Brian Jean’s UCP leadership campaign. Kiss’s spouse, Deanna, donated $4,000 to Kenney’s UCP leadership campaign, $4,000 to the UCP party, and $4,000 to the UCP 2019 election campaign. Kiss’s company, Morgan Construction donated $675 to the PC party in 2004, $1,000 to Wendy Andrews PC 2008 election campaign, and $8,000 to the Shaping Alberta’s Future political action committee. To save you pulling out your calculator, that’s a total of $47,935 in political donations since 2008.

Zainul Mawji is president of Telus Home Solutions. Mawji donated $2,500 to the PC party in 2013. Her spouse, Ashif, also donated $2,500 to the PC party in 2013, as well as $1,000 to Stephen Mandel’s 2014 PC election campaign.

Nancy Southern is chair and CEO of ATCO. Southern and her parents have donated to the PC and United Conservative parties 57 times since 2007, totalling over $124,000, including 9 constituency associations, 29 candidates (19 in the 2008 election alone), Prentice’s leadership campaign, Kenney’s PC leadership campaign, and the UCP leadership campaigns for both Kenney and Jean, as well as the Alberta Advantage Fund, Alberta Victory Fund, and AAFund political action committees. ATCO, which is a family-owned business, has donated over $233,000 since 2004 to the Wildrose and PC parties, including 61 candidates (17 in 2008 and 21 in 2012 alone) and 29 constituency associations.

Kevin Uebelein is the CEO of AIMCo, a provincially-owned Crown corporation focused on managing investment funds.

Mac Van Wielingen is a founder of and partner with ARC Financial, an oil and gas investment firm. Van Wielingen and his spouse Susan have donated $68,000 to political parties since 2008, including Prentice’s leadership campaign and Whitney Issik’s UCP 2019 election campaign. ARC Financial donated $5,000 to Prentice’s leadership campaign, as well as over $99,000 in 23 donations to the PC and Wildrose parties, including 9 constituency associations.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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