Wednesday, May 09, 2012

All the Conservatives' corporate-like donations

Well, what else would you call this happy set of events? Those SNC-Lavalin execs sure are of a like-mind politically. They all donate to the same two riding associations in Quebec too. So happenstance!

A big Conservative winner from the series of donations, of course, ethics poster boy, Christian Paradis with $30,000 transferred into the former Minister of Public Works' riding association's coffers. Paradis is now Industry Minister.

To be fair, it's not just SNC-Lavalin execs making like-minded donations to the Conservatives. A Harper fundraising event saw donations from execs of Quebec's biggest engineering firms pour in to the Laurier-Sainte-Marie riding association in the spring of 2009, just as the federal government was planning to spend the stimulus billions. BPR, for example, had 19 employees coincidentally donate to the Conservative riding association there on one day, April 17, 2009. Again, so happenstance!

That Canadian Press report is worth a detailed read. And to be fair, again, Liberals also had a large fundraiser in 2009 where similar like-minded employee donations can be seen.

Notably, there have been consequences in Quebec for such fundraising tactics:
The province's elections watchdog discovered the firm had circumvented laws preventing corporate donations by funnelling money through employees.

That forced the governing Quebec Liberals to return more than $113,000 in donations collected between 2006 and 2008. Opposition parties, the Parti Québécois and the now defunct Action démocratique du Quebec, returned smaller amounts.

Federal fundraising laws also forbid corporate donations, while limiting individual ones to $1,100 annually, indexed to inflation.
This reporting begs the question of whether there is a need for similar watchdog scrutiny at the federal level.

The ethical appearance stinks. Corporate donations are banned and the Conservatives make a big show of this politically. If Conservatives want to permit corporate donations, they should have the courage of their convictions and bring in legislation.

Update: If possible, and I'm not sure it is, a question that should be pursued is whether there have been any reimbursements to the employees who made these donations. Or, whether non-financial advantages accrued to the employees who made these donations, directly or indirectly from the company (career advancement, etc.) by virtue of the donation. Why would an employee make a donation if there were not advantage accruing to him or her professionally?