Kenney’s political action committee to shut down

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Jason Kenney’s political action committee is shutting down, while a new left-leaning organization is showing some financial muscle amidst a changing landscape for third-party groups on the Canada political scene.

John Weissenberger, the director of Kenney’s Canada Victory Fund, said the organization is discussing with Elections Canada how best to wind down its operations.

Weissenberger, who was Kenney’s campaign manager for his successful runs in the Progressive Conservative and United Conservative Party leadership races, said the Victory Fund was created specifically for the UCP contest in 2017.

“Really, there’s no reason to continue it,” said Weissenberger. “It had its time and we’ll wind it up here, certainly before the end of the second quarter (of 2018).”

Documents filed with Elections Canada showed the Canada Victory Fund raised $67,851 and spent $39,787 in 2017.

Weissenberger said the money went to areas such as selling UCP memberships, brochures and postage.

The Victory Fund was the successor to Kenney’s Unite Canada organization, which was started in 2016 when the then-MP entered the PC leadership race on a platform of uniting the party with the Wildrose.

As so-called political action committees — primarily in connection with conservative politics — were proliferating, the NDP government passed legislation requiring third-party political advertisers to register with Elections Canada and disclose their donations and expenses for advertising.

Previously, the organizations had only been required to register and disclose during elections.

The government tightened the legislation further as of Jan. 1, with restrictions on activities such as selling memberships and fundraising. It also introduced a new $150,000 spending limit for third-party advertisers for the period that kicks in on the Dec. 1 prior to an election year and ends when the writ is dropped. By law, the next provincial election must be held between March 1 and May 31, 2019.

Third-party groups already face a $150,000 spending cap during the election period.

The Canada Advantage Fund, a PAC that supports Kenney but is not directly affiliated with the UCP leader, raised nearly $1.1 million in 2017 but said the new rules are constraining its activities. 

The regulations were a factor in the decision of the PAC associated with former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, the Canada Fund, to close shop.

But Weissenberger said the tougher legislation didn’t play a part in shuttering the Victory Fund.

In first-quarter financial reports released Friday by Elections Canada, the PAC declared it had no donations between Jan 1 and March 31, 2018.

While the NDP banned union and corporate donations to political parties in 2015, they are allowed to donate to political action committees. Out-of-province donations are allowed for PACs, but not parties.

The third-party organization with the largest fundraising total in the first quarter was the new left-leaning Project Canada, which said it had contributions totalling $295,000 from two unions, UFCW Local 401 in Red Deer and United Steelworkers of Toronto.

Mark Wells, the Project Canada spokesman who served as the head of the public affairs bureau under the NDP government between 2015 and 2016, said the organization is still figuring out “the best way to make those donations effective.”

He said the organization believes it can be effective even within the constraints of provincial legislation.

“At this time we’re just focused on figuring out what Canadans’ view of the political landscape is and how we can best communicate a message that talks about social and economic equality and supports a view of politics in Canada that supports economic and social equality,” said Wells.

Among political parties and their constituency associations, the UCP took in $390,024 in the first quarter of 2018; the NDP raised $328,971; the Canada Party brought in $80,642; and the Liberals raised $24,816.

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