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Candidate financial disclosures released

Campaign spending ranges from $1,700 to more than $40,000

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Friday, Mar 07, 2014 05:15 pm

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  • Financial disclosure stats show that high spending levels didn't necessarily bring election success in St. Albert last fall.
    Financial disclosure stats show that high spending levels didn't necessarily bring election success in St. Albert last fall.
    FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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Would-be St. Albert councillors and mayors spent more than $200,000 trying to win over voters during the 2013 municipal election.

Leading the pack in spending was Mayor Nolan Crouse, who spent $42,473 in total and had a little more than $9,000 left over, according to the financial disclosure statements released this week.

Shelley Biermanski, challenging Crouse for the second time, spent slightly more than $10,000, and $9,168 of that was self-funded.

Conversely, Crouse didn’t spend any of his own personal contributions this time, though he did use $20,437 in surplus leftover from his successful run in 2010 and pointed out in an interview that he and his wife have previously contributed about $20,000 to his previous campaigns.

Crouse pulled in more than $30,000 in donations and in-kind contributions.

“Money by itself is … an indication there’s support for you,” Crouse said.

He had to spend to get his name and his message out to the public, reminding those who’ve been here for awhile what he stands for and introducing himself to new residents, he said.

Council candidates

Outspending their opponents didn’t work as well for some of the big spenders in the councillor competition. Of the top six spenders in the councillor race, only two were elected – Cathy Heron and Tim Osborne.

Former councillor Gareth Jones was the biggest councillor candidate spender, coming in at $17,679. Malcolm Parker, who was an incumbent councillor and newcomer Roger Bradley each spent more than $17,000 and were not elected.

Heron spent $15,957 and Osborne spent $13,621. Rounding out the top six of spenders was David Climenhaga, who spent $15,562.

Two candidates filed a voluntary declaration that their campaigns were totally self-funded, and therefore did not have to file disclosures: Ted Durham and Hughena Burke.

Candidates’ own contributions ranged from $0 from Bob Russell’s own pocket to $8,569 by Bradley. In all, councillor and mayoral candidates recorded $50,501 spent out of their own pockets this election, and $134,839 donated.

Jim Lightbody, chair of the political science department at the University of Alberta, said since municipal campaign donations are not tax deductible, average citizens aren’t as interested in giving to candidates.

“It decreases citizen interest in the financing of campaigns. It makes fundraising very difficult for candidates, particularly challengers,” Lightbody said, noting that in the councillor race, several challengers outspent the incumbents.

Corporate donations

When there’s no tax relief for donating, it means candidates are reliant on three kinds of funding sources: those who do business with city hall, those who rely on city hall to do business, like developers, and “everything else,” which includes relatives, friends and self-funding, Lightbody said.

Candidates need to take those who do business with city hall seriously, he said. Developers, especially larger ones are frequent donors.

“They want to make sure they’ll get a fair hearing at city hall,” Lightbody said.

There were several businesses that spread money around to a plurality of candidates.

Top contributors included Genstar Development Company, Reid-Built Homes and Sarasota Homes Ltd.

In terms of donations to multiple candidates, Genstar contributed the most with a total of $7,650 going to eight candidates. Crouse received a $1,500 slice of that pie, Brodhead, Heron, Jones, MacKay and Parker each got $1,000. Prefontaine received $400 while Mark Cassidy received $750.

The Edmonton and District Labour Council offered contributions in a mostly in-kind manner to Crouse, Climenhaga and Osborne.

Sign Guru’s in-kind contributions totalled $5,696 for those who recorded their services as donations. Harley, Hughes, MacKay, Osborne and Russell all included Sign Guru in their disclosures.

The Sign Guru has recently sent a representative to council meetings to make the case for lower portable sign permit fees, and acknowledged during the election they were offering help to some St. Albert candidates.

Campaign donations had a maximum of $5,000 per person or organization for each candidate.

Crouse said he’s going to be going through the disclosure documentation carefully.

“For me I’m going to analyze this very closely because it is absolutely essential that the law is followed to the letter of the law of donating, of in-kind donations,” he said.

Chief legislative officer Chris Belke, who also served as the returning officer for the election, said whether or not third-party support for candidates like the St. Albert Think Tank’s billboards and flyers should have been counted in financial disclosure is a matter of interpretation of the legislation.

“To the best of my knowledge, none of them have been tested in court,” he said of the rules.


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