Just under $10,000 may have been indirectly donated to the Progressive Conservative party.
Michael Grondin/the Gauntlet

The U of C may have made illegal donations

Donations to political causes are under investigation

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The University of Calgary may have made illegal political donations estimated at just under $10,000. The investigation into the donations, which may have been indirectly made, is still ongoing.

Progressive Conservative lawyer Joseph Lougheed purchased pc fundraising tickets on behalf of the U of C over time. This created a sum of about $4,500 of U of C funds donated to the pc party, as reported in the cbc and the Calgary Herald in June 2012.

In 2004, public institutions in Alberta -- including post-secondary institutions -- were prohibited by law to contribute to political causes, according to a June 1, 2012 U of C press release.

"The university may have indirectly contributed to various political causes after it was prohibited by provincial legislation in 2004," states the press release.

In January 2012, however, a request was made for information by the provincial chief electoral officer under the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (foip) concerning money spent by the U of C for political purposes. The probe exposed many documents about political contributions that were indirectly made by the U of C between 2004 and 2008.

According to reports by the cbc and the Calgary Herald, previous U of C legal council Charlene Anderson questioned Lougheed's practice in 2008, saying in an email to Lougheed, "this was the first time this 'practice' has been questioned by me. However, I questioned and objected to it the moment I became aware of it. I cannot pay this account nor can I condone this practice."

"This practice, in my opinion, exposes the university to unnecessary risks -- legally, financially and reputationally. The university cannot pay for services that were not rendered, nor should we circumvent the rules," she wrote.

The June 1 press release states the U of C voluntarily reported the findings and is acting within compliance of the investigation.

According to Students' Union president Hardave Birk, there have not been any donations made since 2008, and the U of C is trying to ensure this problem does not occur in the future.

"It wasn't the university directly purchasing tickets for these fundraisers, and since 2008 there have been no new donations," said Birk. "The university has changed their policy to make sure they fall in line with legislation, and I think the university has been pretty transparent with the way they have gone about the process. The university is doing everything they can, because it was an error that was made in the past and they're trying to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future."

According to Ken McKinnon from the U of C board of governors, the university has acted in a responsible manner and is committed to adhering to public policy and legislation.

"The [U of C] has acted ethically in this matter. We've taken it very seriously, and the board has taken it very seriously," said McKinnon. "Because there is conflicting information, the exact facts are unclear. The university community should be aware that we've acted in a responsible, leadership manner, internally and externally."

The Alberta chief electoral officer Brian Fjeldheim, who maintains control over the documents that were released, is currently making a decision regarding the proceedings of this case.