The advertising during this election campaign has been overwhelming. TV, Radio, social media, billboards, newspapers… It doesn’t matter where we look we see political advertising. While this is hardly shocking during an election, it is surprising seeing the volume of advertising when it is considered that all of the parties are bound by a maximum of $2 million in expenditures during this election. While that sounds like a lot at a glance, it really doesn’t go far when a party is reaching out to an entire province. There are countless other non advertising expenses There are only two parties that have that kind of funding as well.
So where are all these ads coming from?
Third party advertisers. When you put a cap on the spending bottle, people simply find other ways to spend. Again this is not surprising. These advertisers are listed here.
Third parties should indeed have the right to promote their interests during elections. Due to the cap on party spending however, some heavy regulation is required. Are these third parties actual interest groups or are they simply acting as direct arms of parties in order to bypass the spending maximums? It is pretty difficult to distinguish, particularly with the NDP and their intertwined relationship with organized labor.
I was shocked to find that the Alberta New Democratic Party actually is bound within their own constitution to have two members of the Alberta Federation of Labor on their provincial board along with one of each of the Alberta affiliates (there are 67 affiliates). That leaves the NDP provincial board utterly dominated by labor affiliates many of whom are registered as third party advertisers. The Treasurer of the NDP serves in senior positions within several registered third party advertisers. How on earth are these acting as separate entities within this election without collusion?
Other relationships are evident as well. Unfortunately the Alberta NDP is very secretive and they hide who is actually serving on their provincial board. In light of all this intertwining with third party advertisers however, one can see why they are keeping the list to themselves.
This has led me to feel that we need the Electoral Commissioner to look into this. They have the means and authority to take a closer look at just who is controlling the party and what their relationships with third party advertisers are. Collusion to bypass spending limits could be a very serious offense.
The complaint I sent is below. I do hope they find time to investigate soon.
I will be posting more on the relationships of the Alberta NDP with outside parties in the next couple days.
I am formally issuing a complaint that associations between third party advertisers and the New Democratic Party of Alberta have potentially caused infringements of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act in
41.42(1) “A registered party, registered candidate, registered nomination contestant or registered leadership contestant shall not circumvent, or attempt to circumvent, an expense limit set out in this Part or a contribution limit under Part 3 by colluding with a third party.
(2) A third party shall not collude with a registered party, registered candidate, registered nomination contestant or registered leadership contestant to circumvent, or attempt to circumvent, an expense limit set out in this Part or a contribution limit under Part 3
(3) A registered party shall not circumvent, or attempt to circumvent, an expense limit set out in this Part by colluding with any other registered party. “
The constitution of the New Democratic Party of Alberta calls for mandatory space to be made on the provincial executive of the party which governs it during elections for the Alberta Federation of Labor and its associates as quoted below:
Alberta New Democratic Party constitution
” 7.01 The Provincial Council shall consist of:
(a) the Provincial Executive;
(b) two (2) members to be elected from the Party Caucus in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta;
(c) one (1) member elected by those members of the Party caucus in the House of Commons representing Alberta Electoral Districts.
(d) three (3) members elected from each provincial Constituency Association, who shall not be a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta;
(e) one (1) member elected from each Federal Electoral District Association within the Province of Alberta.
(f) the members of the Federal Council residing in Alberta;
(g) five (5) members from each caucus of the Party;
(h) two (2) members of the Alberta Federation of Labour; and
(i) one (1) member from each of the affiliates in Alberta. “
The Alberta Federation of Labour is a registered third party advertiser in this election. The AFL has 67 affiliates who qualify for spots on the executive as well many of which are also registered third party advertisers.
According to the NDP constitution, the provincial executive has full authority to issue policy and election statements. Essentially they run the party during the election and according to the constitution many of these members of the executive will be from third party advertisers. This makes it nearly impossible to separate these entities and their actions during election periods.
“7.03 Provincial Council shall be the governing body of the Party in Alberta between Provincial Conventions. It shall have the full authority to issue policy and election statements regarding provincial matters in the name of the Party, consistent with the decisions of the Provincial Convention. “
The Treasurer of the NDP is Siobhan Vipond. Ms. Vipond also sits as the Secretary Treasurer with the Alberta Federation of Labour and is on the board with “Public Interest Alberta” which is also a registered third party advertiser. As Treasurer for both the NDP and AFL Ms. Vipond has access to the financials of both organizations. This makes collusion between the organizations in order to ensure that spending limits are not overrun very easy. Ms. Vipond and other executive members of the NDP would also be privy to inside electoral strategy, messaging and plans from within the party which can be communicated to the third party advertisers to keep consistent messaging within them all and to avoid duplicate advertising.
As the NDP does not publish the list of their board members it is difficult to bring up more direct associations within the party board members and registered third party advertisers but it appears exceedingly likely that there will be more overlap between organizations. Marle Roberts and Mike Parker serve on the NDP council while both are on the executive of the AFL, and are active with Public Interest Alberta and CUPE. How do we distinguish between their activities within the NDP and the third party advertisers?
Again, with the mandatory participation of principles from third party advertising entities within the provincial council of the NDP during election time it is difficult to imagine that communications are not being shared in their common goal. This has essentially turned some of these third party advertisers into direct arms of the NDP but the expenditures are not being applied to the total expenditures of the party itself.
I understand that the election period is near it’s end but as advertising is dominating all forms of media right now and influencing the electorate, I feel that it is essential that this possible breach of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act be investigated and acted upon if need be as soon as possible.