Who’s behind the Business Council of Alberta?

An organization called Fairness Alberta has been making the media rounds recently, but who are they?

Last month, after the Alberta Government released their 2021–2022 provincial budget, the Business Council of Alberta sent out the following tweet, labelling the budget as balanced:

Given the fact that it’s not actually balanced and is hurting people who live in Alberta by reducing services and increasing fees, it’s curious that this organization would say that

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But who are they?

Well, their website claims that they’re “a non-partisan, non-profit, and for-purpose organization dedicated to building a better Alberta within a more dynamic Canada.”

Sound great!

Alberta always been a place of opportunity and optimism, of innovation and ingenuity, of resilience and resolve. We love our province and all those who call it home, and we want to leave it better than we found it . . .

Still sounds pretty good

, so we are boldly carving a prosperous future for Albertans—to make life better.

Ah. There it is. Prosperity.

And with a name like Business Council of Alberta, that sort of take shouldn’t be all that surprising.

The council is a little over a year and a half old, having been formed in June 2019. But what do we know about the people behind them?

Hal Kvisle is chair of the board of directors. He is also board chair for ARC Resources and Finning International. Last year, he donated $2,300 to the UCP party. He also donated $2,500 to the UCP in 2018, $3,000 to the PC party during the 2015 provincial election, and $12,000 to the PC party between 2006 and 2012.

One of the four vice-chairs is Dawn Farrell, president and CEO of TransAlta Corporation. During the 2015 provincial election, she donated $500 to Rick Hanson’s PC campaign. Her spouse, Brendon, also donated $500 to Hanson’s campaign. Dawn donated $9,375 to the PC party in 2014; Brendon donated $1,000. The two of them also donated $500 each to Christine Cusanelli’s PC election campaign in 2012. Dawn donated $500 to the Calgary–Elbow constituency in both 2009 and 2010. In addition to the above donations, Brendon donated $4,000 to the UCP last year, $1,5000 to the UCP in 2018, $2,500 to the UCP Calgary–Glenmore constituency association in 2018, $1,500 to the PCs in 2016, and $8,500 to Jason Kenney’s PC leadership bid in 2017.

Another vice-chair is Mac Van Wielingen, founder of ARC Financial, as well as president and founder of Viewpoint Group. He’s also the founder of the Business Council of Alberta. He donated $4,000 to the UCP last year, $2,000 for Whitney Issik’s 2018 nomination campaign (Issik is currently the UCP MLA for Calgary–Glenmore), and $10,000 to the PC party during the 2015 provincial election. His spouse, Susan, also donated $10,000 during the same election. The two of them each donated $15,000 to the PC party during the 2014 byelection and $2,500 during the 2008 election. Mac also donated $1,000 to the PC party in 2014 and $10,000 to Jim Prentice’s 2014 PC leadership bid.

A third vice-chair is Nancy Southern, chair and CEO of ATCO Ltd. Southern and her parents have donated to the PC and United Conservative parties 58 times since 2007, totalling over $128,000, including 9 constituency associations, 29 candidates (19 in the 2008 election alone), Prentice’s leadership campaignKenney’s PC leadership campaign, and the UCP leadership campaigns for both Kenney and Jean, as well as the Alberta Advantage FundAlberta 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.

The fourth vice-chair is Ron Mannix, founder and chair emeritus of Coril Holdings. He donated $4,000 to the UCP last year. His spouse, Nancy, donated $1,500. He also donated $5,000 to the Shaping Alberta’s Future political action committee during the 2019 provincial election, $4,000 to the Wildrose Party in 2015, $2,000 to Jim Prentice’s 2014 byelection campaign, $1,000 to the PC party in 2014, $2,000 to Ted Morton’s 2012 PC election campaign, and $2,750 to the Calgary–Elbow PC constituency association between 2009 and 2011. Nancy also made similar donations, including $1,000 to the UCP in 2018, $1,500 to Gordon Dirk’s 2015 PC election campaign and $1,000 to his byelection campaign in 2014, and $3,650 to the Calgary–Elbow PC constituency association between 2009 and 2012.

Board secretary is Dave Filipchuk, the CEO of PCL Constructors. He donated $1,000 to Stephen Mandel’s PC campaign during the 2014 byelection and $2,300 to Jason Kenney’s UCP leadership campaign in 2017. Also in 2017, his company donated $50,000 to the Alberta Advantage Fund, a political action committee which helped fund the formation of the UCP, as well as the election of Jason Kenney as leader of that party.

The group’s treasurer is Aroon Sequeira, founder and chair of Sequeira Partners. In 2016, he donated $500 to the Calgary–Foothills Wildrose constituency association. He also made several donations to the Wildrose Party itself, including $1,000 in 2015 and $450 in 2014. He also donated $500 to the PC party in 2014. His company also donated to the party: $450 in 2014, $1,000 in 2012, and $2,750 in 2011, as well as $750 during the 2015 election to the PC party.

The following are the non-executive board members:

According to the BCA website, Russ Girling is the president and CEO of TC Energy; although the TC Energy website has François Poirier in that position, as of January 2021. During the 2019 provincial election, Girling donated $1,000 to Richard Gotfried’s UCP election campaign. His spouse, Glenda, also donated $1,000 to the same campaign. As well, she donated $10,000 to the PC party during the 2015 election. During the 10 years he was CEO of TC Energy (previously TransCanada Corporation), the company donated over $12,000 to the PC and Wildrose parties.

Chuck Magro is the president and CEO of Nutrien. There are no records of Magro donating to any provincial political party, nor any for his business.

Judy Fairburn is one of the co-founders of The51 Ventures. She donated $2,000 to the NDP party during the 2019 provincial election. In 2007, she donated $1,000 to the PC party through its Calgary–Mountain View constituency association.

Chris Fowler is the president and CEO of Canadian Western Bank. I could find no record of donations from Fowler to any provincial political party.

Fowler, Southern, and Van Wielingen all served on the Economic Recovery Panel that the UCP government announced last year.

I wonder what they mean by “non-partisan” exactly.

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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.

4 replies on “Who’s behind the Business Council of Alberta?”

As I was reading the article I found myself wondering if any of them also made donations to the AB NDP, as it is not unusual for business people to see value in “covering the bases” rather than “putting all their eggs in one basket”, especially given that the AB NDP were in power from 2015 to 2019. Then I finally saw a reference to ONE AB NDP donation by ONE non-executive board member, which made it clear that the article was not just listing PC/WildRose/UCP donations. If they truly wanted to be non-partisan they should have assembled a more politically balanced board of directors. This makes it all the more interesting that the BCA released a report shortly before the provincial budget pushing for an AB sales tax and the re-introduction of a made-in-AB carbon tax, even though doing so, although eminently sensible from a fiscal perspective, would likely be politically suicidal for the UCP.

Knew we could count on you to set things straight. I had recognised a couple of the ‘non-partisans’ and dismissed their credibility. Wonder how many onations the get through the WarRoom..

A great piece of sleuthing here and a good reminder that the CONS always try to find a way to put “lipstick on a pig”, in attempts to fool the electorate of their involvement.

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