22 March 2012

Alberta universities make illegal donations to Conservatives

Oh my, even the universities are doing it. According to the CBC, a number of Alberta's post-secondary institutions, including Athabasca University and the University of Lethbridge, have been donating to the provincial Conservatives. They have joined those municipalities and counties that have been donating to the Tories for years. All of this is, of course, illegal. It is against the law in this province for publicly-funded institutions to make political donations.

The Conservatives appear to have been alone in enjoying this generous use of the taxpayers' money. The CBC investigation revealed that a variety of colleges and universities have maintained close ties exclusively with the ruling Tories, and that their governing boards and senior executives have actively supported this relationship. These same boards are, of course, appointed by the Conservative government.

The Conservatives were quite aware of what was going on. Tory fundraisers solicited university executives and boards directly. Carol Lund, as head of Athabasca University’s secretariat responsible for administration of its policies and procedures, personally signed off on several requisitions for Tory fundraisers and actively recruited university executives to attend these functions. Lund is also president of the Athabasca-Redwater Conservative riding association.

One obvious question is, why do they need to break the law? They receive more than twice as much legal funding as all the other political parties combined, so it can't be for campaigning. Can it be a subtle, or not so subtle, reminder to these institutions where the money comes from and who appoints the board members? Can it be that Conservative municipal counselors and post-secondary board members believe their party rules by divine right and therefore is owed fealty? Has the Conservative Party been in power for so long it is now synonymous with government? Or is it a simple matter of never enough?

Whatever it is, arrogance or greed, it suggests it's time for a change in Alberta. Or is that blasphemy?

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