The new Alberta government has announced it will, as promised in its election platform, ban political funding by unions and corporations. Alberta will join the provinces of Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia, as well as the City of Toronto and the federal government, with its ban.
The government has also promised a new legislative committee to review rules on elections and ethics and to strengthen whistleblower legislation. Reaching across the aisle, the committee will include nine government and eight opposition members of the legislature.
The need for the measures was revealed by statistics compiled by the Parkland Institute. In the 2012 provincial election, while the NDP and the Wild Rose obtained over 50% of their funds from small donors (under $375—the legal disclosure limit), the Progressive Conservatives received only four per cent from this source. Almost 70% of their revenue came from corporations. And, of course, with the big donors, they were able to raise far more money than their opponents. This was nothing less than corruption of the democratic process.
Corporations will still influence the political process in major ways—rewards to political friends, economic pressure, funding think tanks, media ownership, etc. Nonetheless, this is a good week for democracy. The Alberta government deserves a hearty round of applause from all democrats.