I was going to blog about the illegal donations to the PCs from the Calgary Zoo story the other day when the story originally broke but decided against it as illegal donation stories to the Alberta Progressive Conservatives seem to be all I have been blogging about lately. But here we go again, but this time with a twist.
The original story was broken by the Wildrose on Wednesday with details that the "Calgary Zoo Inc" was issued 2 tax receipts from the Banff-Cochrane Progressive Conservative Association for a total of $725.00. This of course appears to be another in the long line of illegal donations that the PCAA has received over the last few year as "The Calgary Zoo is wholly owned by the City of Calgary and as such under the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosures Act [Section 1 (l)] it is prohibited from contributing to political parties."
Seems pretty clear cut; another in the latest of a long line of illegal donation stories had come to surface but early Thursday came a response from the Calgary Zoo who in full spin mode were trying to explain the donations. From The Calgary Herald: But a spokesperson, Laurie Skene, said the zoo is not wholly owned by the City of Calgary and broke no law when it made a contribution to a golf fundraiser event for Banff-Cochrane MLA Janis Tarchuk.
It looks like the Zoo is trying to parse words here in an effort to defend themselves but it doesn't really matter if the City of Calgary 'wholly' owns the zoo, owns 1% or owns 99% because the issue is a total red herring.
Let me explain.
First off the Wildrose claim that the Calgary Zoo is wholly owned by the City of Calgary is not 100% accurate, but that is no fault of the Wildrose as that exact wording appears on the zoo website: The Calgary Zoo is owned by the City of Calgary, which has entered into an operating agreement with the Calgary Zoological Society to manage the facility on behalf of the citizens of this city.
So what is the truth? From their financials it appears that the City of Calgary does indeed own the zoo; that is it owns the land and the buildings (not sure on the animals but that doesn't really matter), and provides the zoo with taxpayer dollars to operate. Calgary though does not run the zoo, that is done by the Calgary Zoological Society who have a contract with the city to run it until 2015 and this seems to be what the zoo spokesperson was using to cloud the issue of who exactly owns the zoo, and of course whether they are allowed to contribute to a political party. But as I noted earlier it does not matter in the least because even if the city owned 1% of the zoo and the Zoological Society the other 99% (here is that twist I mentioned earlier)
The Calgary Zoological Society is a "not-for-profit organization and is a registered charity under the Income Tax Act of Canada" and cannot by law make any donations to any political party or candidate at any level of government.
By playing word games trying to defend themselves from possible violations of Alberta elections law they have all but admitted to breaking federal law and risk losing their non profit charitable status. Well done Calgary Zoo, well done. Anyone from the CRA listening?
Quick AM update:
One last question: I know that the PC supporters are always trying to spin the multitude of illegal donations as simple mistakes or one offs, but I have to ask. How is it possible to issue 2 tax recipients to a group named "Calgary Zoo Inc" and not have any questions come up or alarm bells go off saying that something might not be right here? Remember; it is this very same party that we have entrusted with looking after all of Alberta's finances.
This donation scandal becomes a national embarrassment."If Albertans get angry enough to rid themselves of their one-party state, perhaps they will come to understand the best part of democracy: Our ability to kick the bastards out of office."
Alberta deserves better. Let's give the PCs the boot.