(I’ve created a wiki page with links at Paul’s Poliwiki on the Calgary & District New Democrat House Society. Please reference that for timelines and documents.)
Over the past month much has come to light about a registered non profit society the “Calgary& District New Democrat House Society”. Both Jason Nixon, the Wildrose Accountability Critic and Greg Clark,the leader of the Alberta Party have researched different aspects of this organization. Jason Nixon discovered it to be an organization open only to and run by members of the Alberta NDP that guarantees the Alberta NDP’s $400 000 line of credit using a commercial bay as collateral. Greg Clark noted that the society rented the space to both the Alberta NDP and the Calgary and District Labour Council, a registered provincial lobbyist.
Now nothing gets under my skin more than “do as I say not as I do” and the NDP have been doing a lot of saying lately. So I started researching their doing. And here’s what I found:
Part 1: Money
In Alberta, provincial registered societies are required to file annual financials. Under the terms of their bylaws this function is carried out by the Alberta NDP Audit Committee and then submitted to the province. According to their financials the Calgary New Democrat House Society own a commercial bay as their only asset with a value of … $142,100. Which is odd when you consider they paid $151,750 for it in 1999 (according to Land Titles). It’s a number that strains credulity when the city of Calgary assessed the bay at $490,000 for 2016 and for $458,000 in 2017. A 10% difference? The market. 50% difference? Really old data. But a 300% difference? And they own 100% of the bay (I checked).
This is significant because the assets of the House Society are used to secure the debt of the Alberta NDP and have been since at least 2004 (in fact the House society changed its bylaws in 2012 to make that an explicit goal). As of 2015 the Alberta NDP had a line of credit for $400,000 which they used to contest – and win – the last election.
In addition the House Society received over $20,000 in rent in both 2014 and 2015 *all* of which according to the financials was used to “clean and maintain” the bay. Assuming the money actually did go to clean and maintain – and not moved into another account somewhere – it should have solid gold floors by now. (BTW, I’m curious who the money goes to but that is not reported. Who owns the cleaning and maintenance company that is able to charge these amounts? And who do they donate to?)
Based on these numbers one can only assume that the audit committee of the Alberta NDP is deliberately understating the value of the House Society’s assets. Federal reporting legislation changes for non profits at the $200,000 mark. Is avoiding more rigorous reporting a motivation? Or is it a political decision to eventually enable the House Society to sell the bay at a substantial market discount while appearing to break even? Regardless, the NDP audit committee has elected to substantially under-report the House Society’s assets.
In debate over Bill 35, Jason Nixon promoted the idea that the House Society and the Alberta NDP were one and the same. Shared directors, shared equipment, shared audit committee and shared quarters. For argument’s sake I’m going to take the opposite tack – which the provincial NDP will also do – and treat it like a separate organization. This brings up some interesting questions:
Is the Alberta NDP receiving subsidized rent for their offices in the bay? If all the money goes to maintaining the facilities the answer is clearly yes. What other political parties receive office space in return for dusting? This would be in violation of Bill 35 which limits donations including in kind to $4000 annually (and nowhere in their annual returns do the NDP list donations from the House Society). Or is the entire rent being covered by the Calgary & District Labour Council, their fellow tenants? Or perhaps by the CDLC’s *own* registered society the Calgary Labour Action Solidarity Society also registered at this address? In which case it is doubly subsidized including by an organization which is totally prohibited from even in kind donations under Bill 1. *Plus* the CDLD is an officially registered lobby group.
*Update Jan 11th – I pulled CLASS’ s 2014 financials (there are no 2015s to be found). They note they paid over $22000 in rent in 2014. One can only assume it is to the House Society since it is their registered address.
So far we have what appears to be: um, “incorrect” financials presented by the NDP Audit Committee, a violation of Bill 35 and two potential violations of Bill 1.
So if the NDP does not feel it is beholden to its own political financing and accountability legislation what legislation do they feel they do have to follow?
Part 2: People
Following through on the idea that the House Society is a separate entity lets talk about some of the people involved.
Scott Payne (President): Scott is currently the NDP’s Southern Alberta Caucus Director, VP Labour of the Alberta NDP and husband of the former deputy chair of the select special ethics and accountability committee – a Bill 35 precursor.
Holly Heffernan (Secretary) a regular NDP candidate, labour strategist, former President of the CDLC and registered President of the Calgary Labour Action Solidarity Society
Siobhan Vipond (Director) Vice-Chair of the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council, Treasurer of the Alberta NDP and Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour
Flora Stupich (Treasurer) Treasurer Alberta NDP Women’s Caucus, CFO for multiple NDP constituency associations and probably the longest serving member of the board
Christopher McMillan (Director) a private sector communications coach, Alberta NDP candidate and BC NDP communications consultant
Anne Wilson (Director) Former NDP VP candidate, criminal lawyer
Christopher O’Halloran (Director) Stakeholder Relations Manager – Office of the Premier, Former Aberta NDP President and Former Director UFCW Local 401
If we accept the NDP’s logic that the House Society is a separate entity:
The House Society is the Alberta NDP’s landlord. Their landlord secures their debt. Two board members are on the public payroll courtesy of the NDP government. Am I saying they were given jobs because they are their landlords? Of course not. Its obviously because they were deeply involved with the NDP. But if one treats the House Society as a separate entity then does it not at least create the perception of influence peddling to hire your landlord who also secures your debts?
So the NDP really have two choices: accept that the House Society is one and the same or continue down the path that it is a separate organization and be in violation of their own bills. Either way they need to accept they haven’t been practicing what they’ve been preaching.