Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he's concerned by complaints filed to Elections Alberta about the relationship between Calgary city Coun. Jeff Davison's mayoral campaign and a third-party advertiser.
"These allegations, if true, are extremely troubling. They are a violation of the spirit of the law as well as potentially a violation of the law itself," the mayor said on Monday.
"This is simple: corporate and union donations are not allowed in campaigns. You cannot use a third-party advertiser to launder corporate donations so they end up in your campaign. This is really, really bad. It's deeply problematic if that's what's in fact happening."
Earlier this month, a Davison campaign official sent emails to supporters promoting a golf tournament with proceeds going toward the campaign. Sponsorship options included naming rights, and logo or signage placements which are all common rewards offered to corporate sponsors at fundraising events.
A subsequent, nearly identical email promoting the tournament was sent by the third-party advertiser Calgary Tomorrow.
According to the Local Authorities Election Act, candidates can't solicit contributions from prohibited organizations like corporations or unions. Third-party advertisers are also not allowed to circumvent contribution rules by colluding with a candidate, or vice versa.
Nenshi said as mayor the successful candidate will face daily tests of their moral compass.
"If you're more focused on getting money for your campaign than you are about following the letter of the law … then I really have to question where that moral compass is for you to move forward," he said.
Kelley Charlebois, Davison's campaign manager, has said the campaign has strictly followed provincial legislation.
But Nenshi said that legislation, which was changed by the current Alberta government, has loopholes — ones that he would never have thought a campaign would "blatantly seek out," as he said appears to have happened in this instance.
That legislation, which was passed last year, removed the limits of spending by third-party advertisers outside the local elections campaign period, among other changes.
Nenshi also pointed out that during Charlebois' time with the former Progressive Conservative party, the party faced an illegal fundraising scandal.
Charlebois has said he'd encourage all third-party advertisers to make their affiliations clear and that donors to those advertisers should ask where their money is going.
"It's unfortunate that individual Calgarians who have chosen to participant in the democratic process to select our next mayor, are now being targeted by frivolous complaints and slimy political tactics to suggest something untoward has happened," he previously told CBC in an emailed statement.
Elections Alberta has not yet confirmed if it is investigating the complaints.