The Katz Katastrophe
The bending of election rules by the provincial Conservatives isn’t new. It’s a regular affair by now. Kevin Taft’s lawsuit against Elections Alberta, the ongoing debacle of large union and corporate donations, and the disproportionate sway that the oil patch has on Albertan democracy, are not new.
The difference between the Thorsteinson and Katz is that Thorsteinson did it within the spirit of the rules (and Elections Alberta backed Thorsteinson up on the specifics of the election finance regulations). Katz gave one cheque and the provincial Conservatives split it amongst his family and coworkers. This goes beyond just the power of money in Alberta politics — it’s an affront to the basic way that Albertans treat each other.
Look at this issue in a greater context for a moment, dear reader. Coupling Katz’ donation with the shear arrogance he showcased with demanding more money on an already lucrative arena deal for the Edmonton Oilers it speaks of a deeper issue. You have a billionaire that is trying to wield an influence on the Albertan public that is fully and completely outside of the conduct of an Albertan citizen. It’s pushing the rules to their furthest limit, not quite crossing those regulator lines in the sand, but crossing every moral line along the way. It’s fundamentally unforgivable.
It’s a level of arrogance that is completely abhorrent to the Albertan public.
Ultimately, Katz will be shown to be in the right with regards to his donation to the provincial Conservatives. If there is a penalty for his donation it will likely be a slap on the wrist at most and a financial penalty that he can pay in less than a minute of working, with a tut-tutting towards process on the PC’s end more than his own actions. But his influence on the party, his 28% stake in their 2012 election budget, and the fundamentally arrogant attitude he has shown to Alberta will not be forgotten.
Redford may have thrown her hands up in the air and said she wasn’t involved but this type of behaviour isn’t missed by a leader. It’s on her newly won crown that this crisis of arrogance falls on. It’s not without irony that Don Braid writes that the provincial Conservatives ought to be called the Progressive Katzervatives.
*Update: Jane Morgan, political blogger and past candidate, suggested that I edit this piece to highlight that Thornsteinson’s donations to the Wildrose occurred over four years rather than just the election. I’ve edited the blogpost to clarify this. You can read her blog post on Mr. Katz, the Thornsteinson donation, and the differences between the two.