Apr 032003

. . .   influence-peddling, The problem is the political system and it CAN be fixed!




Premise:  a well-designed system has built-in safeguards against abuse.  Separation of legislative, judicial functions, etc. in a democracy serves this purpose.  Another example is accounting systems which can be poorly, or well, designed to protect against fraudulent activity.


Observe the intimate dance between the oil and gas industry and politics through the Great Sand Hills example.  It is somewhat misleading:  the ROOT problem is not limited to the present Government, as one might conclude.

Correspondence during the Piapot re-zoning (summer 2002):  “I (Sandra) do not know how effective the opposition Sask Party will be in this effort.   In conversation with an emminent Reginian I am told that a partner from a Regina law firm was part of a Sask Party fund-raising committee that went to Calgary.  They met with “the oil and gas industry and who should be sitting in the front row but Dwayne Lingenfelter”.   (Lingenfelter, Deputy Premier Sask, NDP Government)

When I questioned the Sask Party,  I was told that it was a fund-raising dinner and they have no control over who buys the tickets to the dinner (it wasn’t solely for the oil & gas industry – – ??).

The article below, Power through Canada’s back door by Gillian Steward, tells the same story.   I have another documentation of the Sask Party going to Alberta to raise money at a $300 a plate dinner in the oil patch.  I can’t find it at the moment,  but  this captures it all:  Saskatchewan Party received millions in donations from Alberta companies (Oil and Gas in particular). CBC

It seems that we have both the NDP and the Sask Party courting the oil and gas companies in Calgary.  Shouldn’t be surprised.  It only confirms my conviction that Saskatchewan  needs to be like some other jurisdictions and limit contributions to political parties to private individuals.   That won’t fix a corrupted system, but it might at least help.

UPDATE:   The Sask Party won the 2007 Election.


Jan. 7/03,  I came across a newspaper article about the Sask Party’s connection to the o&g industry:

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

Power through Canada’s back door
Sask Party Night at the Calgary Petroleum Club

Sep 22, 2002   by  GILLIAN STEWARD


” … let me take you to a fascinating fund-raiser held last March at the Calgary Petroleum Club.

Elwin Hermanson, former Reform MP and now leader of the Saskatchewan Party, was the guest of honour. It was throne speech day in Regina, but Hermanson left as soon as he could and chartered a plane to Calgary. Wearing a smartly tailored navy suit and a bright Alberta Tory-blue tie, he looked every bit the grinning, wide-eyed farmboy who can’t quite believe he’s been admitted to the inner sanctum of the oilpatch. The sumptuous oak paneling, the million-dollar art collection, the crystal chandeliers all speak of a club that is very picky about who it lets in the door.

About 175 diners, or the corporations they work for, each paid $250 to be here. There’s Bud McCaig, chairman of Trimac Corporation, key fund-raiser for the Alberta Tories and one of the most powerful backroom boys in Alberta politics. Gerry Maier, former president of TransCanada Pipelines is on hand. So is Dick Wilson, communications czar for Alberta Energy Company (later renamed Encana after merging with PanCanadian to create the largest independent oil and gas producer in the world).

Preston Manning takes a seat at Hermanson’s table. At the next table sits Jim Dinning, the former Alberta finance minister who masterminded the Klein cutbacks and is expected to take a shot at the premiership himself some day soon. Meanwhile, he’s a senior executive with TransAlta Corp. and is busy raising money for Paul Martin. Former Tory MP Lee Richardson is also seated in the inner circle. As the faithful pour the wine and pass the bread, Cliff Fryers takes to the podium to welcome them. He’s a lawyer, former chief-of-staff for Manning and co-chair of the committee that has organized this fund-raiser. Fryers jokes about making a “clean sweep” of Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan. Then he urges everyone in the room to stand behind Hermanson once he gets elected premier “because, as we can see with Gordon Campbell in B.C., it’s tough going at the beginning.”


Then the other co-chair, John Zaozirny, strides to the podium. A former Lougheed protg and energy minister, Zaozirny is a lawyer’s lawyer who has made a career of being a shareholder and corporate director of oil and gas companies. During the past year he’s also been busy advising and fund-raising for the Gordon Campbell Liberals in B.C.

Zaozirny asks everyone born in Saskatchewan to raise their hands. Lots of hands go up. Then it’s time for grace. Veteran stockbroker Scott McCreath jogs up to the podium, and this is the way he begins his prayer: “Thank you Lord for giving us the freedom to do whatever we want whenever we want…” None of the mostly-white, mostly-male crowd seems taken aback by the tone of the prayer.

There are two very important “trophy heads “here as well. Sitting at a front-row table is Dwain Lingenfelter, former NDP deputy premier of Saskatchewan, now a senior officer with oilpatch heavyweight Nexen (formerly CanOxy). Beside him is Doug Anguish, former NDP MP and Saskatchewan energy minister, who left the public sector after Renaissance Energy made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

When Hermanson takes to the podium, almost the first thing he does is introduce Lingenfelter and Anguish to the crowd. He refers to them as former Saskatchewan cabinet ministers, never mentions the NDP — doesn’t have to — and says how pleased he is to have them there. Jim Dinning leads a round of applause for the grinning converts.


Hermanson gives a speech which includes all the neo-conservative nuggets. He promises to cut taxes in Saskatchewan — corporate, small business and personal, stop expansion of Crown corporations that compete with the private sector and stop growing government. He also promises to lower oil royalties and “streamline” environmental regulations. When he finishes, people ask for more detail. What about Saskatchewan’s eroding tax base? What about the NDP civil service — how will he prevent it from undermining his agenda? Then someone puts in a good word for Saskatchewan Crown corporations. Hisses and boos rise from the crowd. Hermanson says the big Crown utilities — SaskTel, Sask Power, SaskEnergy — “are too important to the economy of Saskatchewan to be put on the sales block, but we can’t keep them the way they are either.”


As the fund-raiser winds down, emcee John Zaozirny takes to the podium again and is soon expressing his glee at the thought of “Alberta, BC, and Saskatchewan — three business running governments.” What was that? Just in case everyone hasn’t understood, he says it again: “business running governments.”

Now, it was just a fund-raiser, not a founding convention for a political party. But in both Alberta and B.C., opposition parties have been almost wiped off the map. The Saskatchewan Party could indeed topple the beleaguered NDP within the year.


…  For the sake of democracy this country needs a variety of strong, broadly based political parties. But if what I saw at the Petroleum Club last March is any indication, that’s not likely to happen soon. Instead, we have a united right/centre/left that’s content to play power games behind closed doors — power games that will pay them rich dividends long before before any residual benefits trickle down to the rest of us.


Gillian Steward is a Calgary-based author and journalist who was also a visiting professor at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism earlier this year. ”



I don’t like “left” and “right” labels – sometimes I’m one, sometimes the other.  I don’t know Gillian Steward.  In case some people will stereotype her input on the basis of being “leftist”, let’s look at what Andrew Coyne (to some a “rightest”) has to say:

(Status:  this is off the Internet, no ability to identify who submitted it.  I am awaiting a reply from Andrew to confirm his authorship.  Because of Jan 10th deadline (tomorrow) I don’t want to hold off sending this.)


2001:  Andrew Coyne wrote about the topic of political contributions recently. He notes that, “the corporations that are most closely regulated by the federal government were among the biggest contributors to the Liberals. Bombardier, recipient of millions of federal dollars [including the $1.2 billion in loans that the government just gave to Northwest Airlines so that they could turn around and buy jets from Bombardier] over the years contributed $100,502.

    “But the most fascinating fact of all is that the rest of us continue to put up with this.  We do not have elections in this country.  We have auctions. Why do you suppose these large corporations have decided to fork over so much of their shareholders’ money? Why, in such disproportionate numbers, to the governing party?

    “People who defend this sort of thing often say that corporations who give large sums of money to the people who regulate them are just trying to ‘support the democratic process.’

All of this is the result of the government expanding its scope far beyond what any government should do, namely protection of citizens’ rights and national defense (both of which are true public goods, which is to say that by the simple fact that the government is protecting one citizen, it is by definition protecting all citizens).

The tax code, of course, is the main culprit. Governments have put into place a high tax regime (but also provide plenty of loopholes for their lawyer friends to figure out and charge for) in order to raise tons of money to spend on social programs. Governments also have complicated tax laws on the books that charge corporations different amounts of tax depending upon whether money is raised via equity or debt, and whether it is paid out as a dividend or a capital gain, etc, etc.

And, the government also charges different industries different tax rates, too, like for example when Paul Martin lowered the corporate tax rate but neglected to extend the rate reduction to energy companies, too, which some think has to do with the fact that the energy sector is located square in the middle of Western (ie, non Liberal voting) Canada.

So with all of this chicanery written into the tax code, corporations pay the big bucks to the politicians in order to have themselves exempted from (or at least have the harm to them reduced) the prevailing tax rates and regulatory rigamaroll.


This point is made, too, by Coyne, “you might not expect any big favours if you do not contribute.  You might not even expect any severe retribution if you don’t. But you can hardly expect your reticence won’t be noticed, and remembered in those moments when you might once have hoped to be given the benefit of the doubt. This is a small country.  Perhaps nothing overt is said, but can you really take that chance?



I shake my head along with Coyne:  “But the most fascinating fact of all is that the rest of us continue to put up with this.  We do not have elections in this country.  We have auctions.”


It is through naivete, failure to assume responsibility for our own governance, or through failure to think, that one would NOT insist that political contributions be limited to individuals.  (It has the added benefit of leveling the playing field for “alternate” political parties that are not in a position to court the centres of power and influence, whatever those may be (they aren’t ONLY corporate interests).


THE PROBLEM IS THE EXISTING SYSTEM:  favours can be bought and sold.  You can turf out a political party but that won’t solve the problem, as the article by Gillian Steward clearly demonstrates.  In time the same corruption will again surface – it’s under-the-surface just waiting to bubble up.

THE SYSTEM HAS TO CHANGE.  The difficulty with change is that no political party in power will enact legislation to cut off a major source of its funding and access to influence when out-of-office (unless the quality of political leadership suddenly changes.)  It is why we citizens will.

The Integrity Legislation we develop needs, not so much to define what constitutes acceptable behavior in Government, but to establish the built-in safeguards against corruption.  The “public trough” creates great centralized temptation as a source for personal or institutional gain.

Other people have come to the same conclusion:  we require a political system based on financial contributions from individuals.  Contributions from all entities, other than individuals, need to be outlawed.

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