Resurrecting the Hits to Charities: It Must Be an Election Year in Alberta

In what was deemed to be one of the worst political plays during the 2015 Alberta election, five CEOs held a press conference to express their concerns about how Albertans were going to vote.  Three days before the May 5 election, the CEOs gathered in a penthouse boardroom and warned Albertans that corporate donations to Edmonton’s children’s hospital, The Stollery, would not be possible if they had to pay more tax.  The meeting spawned such memorable social media campaigns as #ABSupportsStollery and the “World’s Largest Flea Market” to raise money for the hospital after the election.

Those with shorter memories have apparently decided it might be a good idea to try again. Doug Schweitzer, United Conservative Candidate for Calgary Elbow promoted an open letter from a Calgary dentist and former UCP leadership hopeful that offered his apologies with a list of charities he could no longer afford to donate to because “all three levels of government” are making things harder for his business. 

First attempt: December 12, 18

Note: it’s not his fault, the government is at fault.  The Alberta government reduced small business tax by 33% and the federal government reduced it by 29%. And Calgary has been accused of using business property taxes to subsidize residential property tax which is totally unfair for small business owners who don’t live in Calgary, I’m sure. If government policy suits his business better in 2020, he hopes to resume donating to charities.

This is not to suggest that there are no legitimate complaints about government policy; there are plenty. Instead, my position is that government policy can, arguably should, create an environment for businesses to succeed, they are not, and should not be, responsible for the success of that business anymore than they should be responsible for its failure.

Second attempt: January 31, 19

What happened, though, was that Schweitzer and Trofimuk invited some potentially unwanted scrutiny into the previously charitable Doctor’s life. One person brought up the fact that average dental costs are the highest in the country.

Another googled the office hours and asked if four and a half days a week (no evenings or weekends) was really the most lucrative business model for a dental office. Another noted the Dr. ended 2018 by exceeding maximum donation limits for political donations of $4050 to the UCP and $1000 to Schweitzer’s constituency association.

There’s nothing wrong with choosing where to spend your own money; just don’t use the old “I’m too broke to donate to charities but my political donations are safe” routine.  

While it’s true that some people, and some businesses, are struggling, many people quietly cancel their donations or pay a little less than the balance owing without handing a would-be politician a letter to use for promotional purposes. But you have to admit the letter got a lot more traction than Schweitzer’s first attempt. 

Although it would be nice to believe that financial hardship isn’t just a campaign gimmick, some UCP candidates are making that increasingly difficult. 

This post contains both fact and opinion.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

[email protected]

@Mitchell_AB @thisweekinAB