Thursday, July 24, 2008

The ties that bind: Saskatchewan Party & Conservative Party of Canada; MLAs and MPs swap donations

“There are no ties between the Saskatchewan Party and the Conservative government. We are completely independent of each other.”
Nancy Heppner, Saskatchewan Party candidate for Martensville and former Harper communication strategist, StarPhoenix, Oct. 18, 2007

“I’m supporting Conservative candidate David Anderson (Cypress Hills-Grasslands).”
Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall, StarPhoenix, June 5, 2004
A fine piece of detective work by reporter James Wood in the July 23 StarPhoenix should hopefully, but not likely, put to rest the Saskatchewan Party’s contention that there are no ties between it and the federal Conservatives.

Using public disclosure documents that are filed with the clerk of the legislative assembly by the province’s conflict-of-interest commissioner, Wood discovered that of the Saskatchewan Party’s 36-member caucus 11 MLAs are members of the Conservative Party of Canada.

The list includes Crown Corporations Minister Ken Cheveldayoff, Highways, Infrastructure Minister Wayne Elhard, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart, Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Christine Tell and Justice Minister Don Morgan, who recently announced the government would drop the constitutional challenge against Ottawa that was sparked by the Conservatives’ broken campaign promise on equalization.

Backbench MLAs who are Conservative Party members are Michael Chisholm, Greg Ottenbreit, Jim Reiter, Laura Ross, Randy Weekes and Jeremy Harrison, who was the Tory MP for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River from 2004 to 2006. [Eleven Sask. Party MLAs card-carrying Tories: documents (StarPhoenix, July 23, 2008)]

Campaign returns of candidates in an election and financial returns of registered political parties are also good sources of information to establish these kinds of links.

Financial statements filed with Elections Canada show that a number of current Saskatchewan Party MLAs have donated to federal candidates that are now Conservative MPs:

Ken Cheveldayoff, $500 to Brad Trost in Dec. 2005.

Michael Chisholm, $400 to Gerry Ritz in Jan. 2006; and $400 to Ritz in June 2004.

Glen Hart, $250 to Andrew Scheer in Jan. 2006.

Jeremy Harrison, $1,250 to himself in Jan. 2005.

Delwood “Yogi” Huyghebaert, $500 to Dave Batters in Dec. 2005.

Donald Morgan, $1,000 to Carol Skelton in Jan. 2006.

Jim Reiter, $250 to Carol Skelton in Dec. 2005.

Lyle Stewart, $250 to Dave Batters in Jan. 2006; and $250 to Batters in June 2004.

Gregory Brkich, $250 to Lynne Yelich in June 2004.

Wayne Elhard, $250 to David Anderson (Canadian Alliance) during the 2000 Canadian federal election.

Former Tory MP Jeremy Harrison joined the Reform Party in 1996 and served in numerous positions, from riding official to national councillor, and worked on Stephen Harper’s first and second leadership campaigns. [The Hill Times, Jul. 26-Aug. 1, 2004]

Saskatchewan Party financial statements filed with Elections Saskatchewan show that since 1999 seven of Saskatchewan’s current 13 Conservative MPs have contributed more than $13,000 to the party with Carol Skelton and Lynne Yelich leading the way with donations totaling $4,601.24 and $3,293.46 respectively.

Skelton was on the Saskatchewan Party’s executive and served on former Opposition leader Elwin Hermanson’s constituency association. Yelich worked for Conservative Allan Kerpan while he served as MP and received $300 funding from the MLA in the 2006 federal election.

Other MPs contributing to the Saskatchewan Party include: Dave Batters – $1,010, Tom Lukiwski – $1,689.75, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz – $1,061.66, Andrew Scheer – $500, and Brad Trost – $900.

Lukiwski was General Manager of the Saskatchewan Party from 1997 until 2004. Dave Batters’ wife, Denise, is currently Justice Minister Don Morgan’s chief of staff.

A number of senior Saskatchewan Party government and party staff appear to be Conservative Party of Canada supporters as well.

Ron Dedman, the associate deputy minister of executive resourcing to executive council, contributed $600 to Tom Lukiwski in Jan. 2006; and $576 to the Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre Conservative Association in Jan. 2007.

Reg Downs, the senior advisor to the premier, donated $400 to Dave Batters in Dec. 2005 and $400 to Tom Lukiwski in May 2004.

Garnet Garven, the deputy minister to the premier and cabinet secretary, contributed $500 to the Conservative Party’s Wascana candidate, Brad Farquhar, in Jan. 2006. (Farquhar was once the Saskatchewan Party’s executive director.)

Joe Donlevy, the chief of staff to the premier, donated $500 to the Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar Conservative Association in June 2006.

Rick Mantey is the deputy cabinet secretary and clerk of the executive council. It appears his company Frederick D. Mantey & Associates Ltd. contributed $267.75 to the Winnipeg South Conservative Association on Aug. 28, 2006. Mantey is a former special assistant to Manitoba Tory premier Gary Filmon.

Raynelle Wilson, the Saskatchewan Party’s caucus director and its Regina Lakeview candidate in the 2007 provincial election, donated $400 to Dave Batters in Dec. 2005.

An Iain G. Harry of Kanata, Ontario is listed as having made 10 contributions of $85 each to the Conservative Party of Canada between Mar. 24 and Dec. 19, 2006. Harry made three more donations of $85 each to the party from Jan. 18 to Mar. 19, 2007.

The StarPhoenix reported on Mar. 17, 2006, that Iain Harry, the Saskatchewan Party caucus’ director of policy, was taking a policy and communications role with the Conservative caucus as an employee of the House of Commons. [Sask. Party worker takes job with Tories (StarPhoenix, Mar. 17, 2006)]

Harry was senior adviser to Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon for infrastructure and communities and former head of the Conservative Resource Group (CRG), otherwise known as the Conservative National Caucus Research Bureau in Ottawa. [The Hill Times, Nov. 26, 2007]

Following the Saskatchewan Party victory in the 2007 provincial election Harry returned to Saskatchewan and on Nov. 16 was named special advisor to the premier. According to the government’s staff directory Harry is currently vice president of the crown sector initiatives division in the Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (CIC).

More interesting is that early federal records indicate that a Brad Wall donated $101.07 to the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 1994 and $169.51 in 1995. It’s unclear whether this is the same Wall that is premier today.

In 2004, Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall told StarPhoenix columnist Gerry Klein that he was supporting Cypress Hills-Grasslands Conservative candidate David Anderson.

However, Wall expressed concern that if the Saskatchewan Party was seen to be supporting a particular federal party that it could cost him votes in the next provincial election: “We know we need every vote we can get,” he said. [Wall defends MLAs’ right to choose: Sask. Party members support range of federal candidates (StarPhoenix, June 5, 2004)]

On Nov. 29, 2005, Wall said the best way to advance Saskatchewan’s interests is to vote for the Harper Conservative’s.

“You know, there are two parties that are interested in an energy accord, support an energy accord for Saskatchewan,” he said. “One of them has a chance to form the government and the other doesn’t.”

Wall said that meant he’d be voting Conservative. [Calvert, Wall weigh in on federal race (CBC News, Nov. 29, 2005)]

As things turned out Wall could not have been more wrong, the Harper government had no interest and does not support an energy accord for Saskatchewan.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Since coming to power the Wall government has appointed a number of Conservative Party contributors to plum posts many of whom have also donated to the Saskatchewan Party. These include:

David Eberle, WCB Chair: $600 to Bradley Trost in June 2004.

Robert Pletch, SaskEnergy Chair: $1,000 to Dave Batters in Dec. 2005; and $500 to Batters and $300 to Tom Lukiwski in June 2004.

Doug Emsley, chief of transition and special advisor: $1,000 to Dave Batters and $1,000 to Tom Lukiwski in Dec. 2005; and $1,000 to Batters and $2,000 to Lukiwksi in May 2004.

Gavin Semple, Enterprise Saskatchewan deputy chair and business sector representative: $2,000 to Tom Lukiwski in Jan. 2006 and $1,000 to Brad Farquhar in Dec. 2005.

Ken Love, Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board Chair: $585 to the Wascana Conservative Association in Nov. /Dec. 2005.

E. Craig Lothian, Enterprise Saskatchewan board representing the resources industry: $250 to Dave Batters in June 2004 and $300 to the Wascana Conservative Association in Dec. 2005.

Wes Becker, Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation Chair: $400 to Tom Lukiwski in Dec. 2005.

Warren Sproule, Saskatchewan Government Insurance Chair: $200 to Dave Batters in Jan. 2006.

Wayne Lorch, Saskatchewan Transportation Company Chair: $260 to Dave Batters in Dec. 2005.

Joel Teal, SaskPower Chair: $850 to the Conservative Party in 2006.

Glen Rittinger, SaskWater Chair: $300 to the Conservative Party in 2006.

Bill Wheatley, SaskPower vice-chair: $500 to Dave Batters in Jan. 2006 and $550 to Batters between May & June 2004.

One of the more recent federal appointments with a Saskatchewan Party connection came on July 7, 2008, when Kory Teneycke became the new director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Teneycke worked in Reform Party Leader Preston Manning’s office where he had a series of organizational roles. From there Kory went to Saskatchewan to help Elwin Hermanson’s Saskatchewan Party come within a hair of knocking off the Roy Romanow NDP. [Introducing the new PMO director of communications (Maclean’s, July 4, 2008)]

Saskatchewan Party financial records indicate that Teneycke donated $649.58 to the party in 2003.

Records show that Teneycke donated to several Saskatchewan Conservative campaigns: $1,000 to Brad Trost in Jan. 2006; $1,000 to Gerry Ritz in Jan. 2006; $1,000 to Andrew Scheer in Jan. 2005; $1,000 to Jeremy Harrison in Jan. 2006; and $1,000 to Tom Lukiwski in 2006.

Last, but not least, is the Saskatchewan Party government’s Environment Minister Nancy Heppner who famously said during the last provincial election that “There are no ties between the Saskatchewan Party and the Conservative government.”

Heppner, who up until June 2005 served as Question Period coordinator for the Conservative caucus, joined the PMO in March 2006 as a special assistant for issues management.

In the last federal election she worked in the Tory war room and before that worked for Tory MP Dave Batters as the Parliamentary assistant in his constituency office.

Originally from Rosthern, Heppner first came to the Hill in Sept. 2001 to work for Conservative MP Carol Skelton (Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Sask.) as a legislative assistant. She joined Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) OLO in 2002 as Question Period coordinator. [The Hill Times, Mar 20, 2006]

A couple of years ago Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk pointed out that “While the Saskatchewan Party is quick to note it has no formal relationship with any federal party, the personal connections are rather indisputable.”

Mandryk said “the informal ties may be as much of a hindrance as a help when it comes to the Saskatchewan Party’s identity crisis -- especially if it’s perceived that the provincial Opposition is nothing more than an apologist for unpopular federal government decisions.” [Questions still remain about Saskatchewan Party (Leader-Post, Feb. 24, 2006)]

Now that they’re in power the Saskatchewan Party’s identity crisis is worse than ever.


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