Who is influencing our provincial government?
A recent database put together by Progress Alberta reveals that over $3 million has been donated to the Saskatchewan Party from out of province companies since 2006. In fact, in 2015, corporations from outside of Saskatchewan donated a hefty $167,832.36 to Brad Wall’s party. Considering that 2016 was an election year, this number could be even higher when the financial returns for this year are released.
Additionally, Elections Saskatchewan does not report the place of residence of the donors to the Saskatchewan Party so it is impossible to know how much of the $2.3 million of the party’s 2015 individual donations came from donors who did not live in Saskatchewan.
This is alarming for two reasons.
First, the quarterback of the Riders isn’t going to wear a Stampeders’ jersey and ask the Calgary coaches which play to run. Similarly, in a democracy, politicians are elected to listen and represent the voters of their jurisdiction and no one else.
However, a recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that, without proper regulation, political donations can “become the means for powerful special interests to exercise undue influence, and capture the policy process.”
Allowing out-of-province donations to flow into Saskatchewan opens up our politics to being influenced by interests other than those of voters in provincial elections. The out-of-province construction, oil, banking, and telecommunications companies that donate to the Saskatchewan Party will always put their business interests and the interests of their shareholders first. It would be naïve to believe that these companies just want to contribute to democratic dialogue and debate in a neighbouring province.
Rather, funding the Saskatchewan Party is way for these out-of-province corporations to put pressure on Brad Wall’s government to make policy that will benefit their business interests. The potential for these companies to “capture” the policy process in Saskatchewan is very real.
Second, surveys done by political scientists have shown that trust in government has been waning over the last three decades in all western democracies along with lower voter turnout in elections. Allowing out-of-province donations to come into Saskatchewan drains the trust of citizens in their government away because it creates the perception that out-of-province interests may have undue influence.
To have trust in our provincial government, Saskatchewan citizens need to be assured that politicians’ sole motivation in making policy is to improve the quality of their lives and make our province a better place to live. Out-of-province donations to the governing party create the suspicion, even if it cannot be completely confirmed, that the government is being influenced by something other than the wants and the desires of Saskatchewan voters.
The people of Saskatchewan agree that out-of-province donations to political parties are not acceptable. A recent poll illustrated that, when asked the question “Should out of province money be allowed to fund political parties in Saskatchewan?”, 69% of Saskatchewan residents said “no”, 11% said “yes”, and 20% were “not sure.”
There is a simple solution: make sure that everyone who donates to provincial political parties is an actual voter in the upcoming Saskatchewan provincial election.
Almost every other Canadian province (with the exception of British Columbia and Newfoundland) either does not allow donations from out-of-province residents or is in the process of eliminating them. Similarly, only citizens of Canada can donate to Canadian federal political parties.
Saskatchewan needs to catch up with the rest of the country.
It is for this reason that the Saskatchewan NDP passed a resolution at its recent convention to ban all out-of-province donations. In fact, the resolution went even further. It also proposed a ban on all union and corporate donations and put limits on the amounts of individual contributions as have been done in several other provinces and at the federal level in Canada.
Our party wants to make sure that democracy is not for sale. Banning out-of-province, corporate, union, and large individual donations means that citizens are certain that their politicians are only listening to their voters.
The people of Saskatchewan deserve to sleep well at night knowing that their government is working only for them and no one else.