Preface: yes, I will get to union donations and third party advertising, but first, corporate donations deserve their own scrutiny.
Here’s what corporate donations look like since Saskatchewan saw a change of government in 2007.
Those NDP numbers are painful. I’ve looked at them, and they’re a hodgepodge of in-kind services from the late Gary Aldrige, some graphic artists and a bit of token cash.
(That is the full extent of my analysis of the NDP’s corporate donations over the last decade – but here’s the link if you want to do your own.)
Unsurprisingly, 90 per cent of corporate donations to Saskatchewan political parties went to the Sask Party (more actually, considering half of the NDP’s ten percent was a bank loan).
The partisan responses to corporate political donations are usually extreme, evoking protectionism and outrage, because it’s not about money, it’s about judging motives and ethics. Unless you’re a mind reader, that’s impossible to do – which is why I don’t understand why any political party would want to leave either open to interpretation.
If possible, put your partisanship aside, consider the data, and reflect on what you feel is the right thing to do.
Upon a very, very rough eyeball of corporate donors, I would say approximately 10 – 15 per cent of total donations to the Sask Party came directly from oil companies.
What I did not take into consideration is the money donated by Saskatchewan companies which indirectly benefited from the booming oil industry in our province: welding, steel, hauling, environmental services etc. There’s a lot of them, both in the province, and on that donor list.
In 2008 and 2009, Penn West Exploration and Rawlco Radio (through the corporation and individual donations made by its owners) were the Sask Party’s fattest cash cows.
2011 saw the Concorde Group out front with a $101 000 donation – the single largest one-shot donation to the Sask Party from one corporation between 2007 – 2014 (I’m guessing in the party’s history). It was also a huge year for oil donations – close to $500K – inclusive of a first-time big gift of $51K, from Crescent Point Energy.
It was also the Year of Allan Markin, an Alberta-based gazillionaire who personally donated $70 000, plus $40 000 from one of his numbered companies and $10 000 from another numbered company, for a total of $120 000. In 2015 those numbered companies merged to become Markin Petroleum Ltd.
Markin had a long, powerful career as a downtown Calgary oil exec connected to a bunch of different oil corporations, including Canadian Natural Resources and Penn West, and today remains busy with Markin Petroleum Ltd.
But, I admittedly can’t find a direct connection between him and Saskatchewan, though that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
Markin is a super-generous philanthropist (and part-owner of the Calgary Flames), who has given a ton of money to hospitals, schools, social causes… maybe the Sask Party was one of his 2011 charities of choice?
Or, maybe one of Canada’s most successful oilmen gave the Sask Party $120K for no reason at all.
What…it could happen.
Anyhoo, from 2012 to 2014 Crescent Point Energy and Cenovus were the Sask Party’s two largest donors, though good ol’ Rawlco was still dogging along loyally in fourth place.
You’ll remember Cenovus from such penalties as the $12-million we paid for not delivering them the carbon dioxide we promised.
Did any of the thousands of corporations who have donated to the SaskParty since it took power, ever receive a government contract, or benefit from a change in policy, in that same time period?
Absolutely. No question.
Are those two factors related?
Can’t say, and neither can you.
I mean okay, could you receive millions of dollars and then be impartial, nevermind be perceived to be impartial?
Look, if I told you some Saudi king was accepting gifts of cash from oil companies for something dear to him, and unrelated to oil, you know exactly what you’d think.
Should we think it’s different if it’s happening in Saskatchewan?
This one is simple – if the Sask Party doesn’t want voters feeling there’s too much corporate (or union – we’ll get to that) influence within the government, they’re going to have to get rid of corporate donations.
But, is that what are voters are thinking?
Perhaps not yet, but wouldn’t that mean now is the perfect time to consider making sure they never do?
Kathleen Wynne likely wishes she had thought of that.
Part 3 will cover unions and third-party advertising – but it’s Friday night and
I’m going clubbingwatching Shark Tank. Check back soon…