This past Monday, Marguerite Trussler, Alberta’s ethics commissioner found that there was no ethics violation regarding a recent conflict of interest complaint filed against Doug Schweitzer.
In the complaint, Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch, reported that Steve Allan had donated $1,000 to Schweitzer’s 2017 UCP leadership campaign, hosted a reception for Schweitzer at the Calgary Golf and Country Club, and had him to his house several times. Schweitzer, later as minister of justice, asked his staff to research Allan’s ability to head an inquiry into “foreign money supporting opposition to the Alberta oil and gas industry.” Allan was subsequently hired for the role. As inquiry leader, Allan chose a law firm for his legal counsel, where his son was a partner at the time.
Like I said, Trussler ruled that there was no ethics violation with this—well, at least not with Schweitzer’s role in it.
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This seemed off, and as I was ruminating on this over the last couple of days, I decided to do my own conflict of interest research.
Here’s what I found.
I started with Trussler. I couldn’t really find anything with her directly. So, I moved on to her spouse.
Francis Price, Trussler’s spouse, at one point had donated to the now-defunct PC party, which merged with the Wildrose Party in 2017 to become the United Conservative Party. Between 2007 and 2015, Price had donated over $5,000 to the PC party: $1,000 to the PC Edmonton–Meadowlark constituency association in 2007, $475 to the party in 2012, $2,000 to Heather Klimchuk’s PC 2012 election campaign, $500 to the party in 2014, $375 to the party in 2015, and $1,000 to Klimchuk’s 2015 election campaign.
But the donations don’t end there.
Price is a partner with the Edmonton-based law firm Reynolds Mirth Richards & Farmer. Several partners with the firm have also donated to the UCP and its predecessor parties.
Allan Farmer, through himself or through his professional corporation, donated $400 to the St. Albert PC constituency association in 2004; $1,000 to Ed Stelmach’s 2004 PC election campaign and $500 to Mark Norris’s 2004 PC election campaign; $942.02 to the PC party in 2005, $850 in 2006, and $850 in 2007; $1,000 to Stelmach’s 2008 campaign; $1,021.65 to the party in 2009, $850 each in both 2010 and 2011, and $950 in 2012; $500 to the party’s 2012 election campaign; and $1,250 to the party in 2013, $1,360 in 2014, and $750 in 2015. Last year, he donated $375 to the Edmonton–Glenora UCP constituency association. That’s nearly $13,500.
John Paul Janssens donated $375 to the PC party in 2015.
Like Farmer, Albert Lavergne also donated to the PC and UCP parties. He donated $425 to the PC party in 2007, $590.06 in 2008, $586.88 in 2009; $925.00 in 2010, $1,425, in 2011, and $1,475 in 2012; $1,000 to the PC 2012 election campaign; $2,875 to the party in 2013, $5,375 in 2014, and $375 in 2015; $3,000 during the 2015 PC election campaign; $500 to the PC party in 2016; $1,500 to the UCP during a 2017 byelection; and $4,000 each to the UCP in both 2018 and 2019. That comes to a little over $28,000 in political donations.
In 2012, Tim Mavko donated $475 to the PC party.
Through himself or his professional corporation, Randall McCreary is connected to the following political donations to the PC party: also donated to Norris’s 2004 election campaign $442.02 in 2005, $425 in 2007, $608.41 in 2008, $596.65 in 2009, $425 in both 2010 and 2011, $475 in 2012, $375 in 2013, $630 in 2014, and $375 in 2015. That’s $5,277.08 in total.
Sonny Mirth makes it 3 partners to donate to both the PC and UCP parties. Through himself or his professional corporation, he is connected to a $750 donation to the PC party in 2004, $2588.22 in 2005, $1,270.02 and in 2006, $1,800 in 2007, $1,505.93 in 2008, $1,995.92 in 2009, $1,000 in 2010, $850 in 2011, and $950 in 2012; a $1,000 donation during the 2012 PC election campaign; $1,750 to the PC party in 2013, $2,135 in 2014, and $750 in 2015; $200 to the UCP party in 2018; $125 to the Edmonton–Riverview UCP constituency in 2018; $275 to the Edmonton–Glenora UCP constituency, $100 to the Edmonton–Riverview UCP constituency, $30 to the Edmonton–West Henday UCP constituency, and $900 to the UCP party in 2019; $700 to the the UCP’s 2019 election campaign. That’s a combined total of $20,775.09.
And if you add that all up, it comes to close to $78,000 that Price and his fellow partners have donated to the UCP party and its predecessor PC party.
But, just like Trussler found no conflict of interest between Allen’s donation to Schweitzer’s leadership campaign, there’s probably no conflict of interest between Trussler’s ruling and the nearly $78,000 in dozens of political donations from her spouse and his partners.