thumb-2023-02-013-danielle-smith-alberta-first-initiative This article is more than 1 year old

Network of Companies Linked to Wealthy Developer Flowed $100,000 to Group Behind Pro-Danielle Smith NHL Hockey Ads

Companies linked to developer J. Cameron Allard made big donations to a third party advertising group, despite $30,000 contribution limit

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A network of companies linked to a wealthy Edmonton developer flowed tens of thousands of dollars to a third party advertising group that spent big money on expensive ad buys during NHL hockey games promoting Danielle Smith.

The donations, which total $100,000, were channeled through a maze of corporate entities linked to Edmonton real estate developer J. Cameron Allard.

Alberta First Initiative, which is a registered political third party advertiser that says its mission is to “promote policies that put Albertan interests and her people first.”

In recent months, AFI has run a series of expensive TV ads during NHL hockey games that both promote Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and attack Alberta NDP opposition leader Rachel Notley.

Elections Alberta’s recently released Q4 filings show at least four separate corporate entities linked to Allard donated more than $10,000 to the third party group Alberta First Initiative – three of those entities donated the maximum $30,000 amount:

  • Cameron Heights Joint Venture: $30,000
  • Keswick Landing Ltd: $30,000
  • SouthPointe Estates: $30,000
  • 773336 Alberta Ltd: $10,000

According to Elections Alberta rules, corporations are allowed to donate to third party groups, though the maximum allowable donation to a third party advertiser is $30,000:

“The maximum a Political TPA can receive from any given contributor is $30,000 per year, less any contributions the contributor may make to other Political TPAs.”

In a statement to PressProgress, Elections Alberta made clear that individuals are not permitted to use multiple corporate entities as a loophole to get around contribution limits, explaining that “associated and/or subsidiary corporations who each make third party advertising contributions, are subject to an aggregate contribution total of $30,000 per year.”

Elections Alberta noted an individual would need to own a controlling stake in a company for it to be “considered in the aggregation.”

Determining whether the $100,000 in donations from companies linked to Allard are within the law is complicated by convoluted ownership structures and confusing relationships between several corporate entities owned by Allard and his family.

Both Keswick Landing and SouthPointe Estates are 50% owned by the same two corporations: Phenom Holdings Ltd., which is majority owned by J. Cameron Allard, and Peterco Holdings, a company apparently linked to his brother, the late Peter Allard.

Peter Allard was a Vancouver lawyer and philanthropist who passed away last year. The University of British Columbia’s school of law was named in honour of Peter Allard in recognition of a $30 million donation.

773336 Alberta is owned by D.I.A. Holdings. Alberta corporate records do not disclose who owns shares in the holding company, but a 1995 lawsuit revealed J. Cameron Allard’s wife, Dawn Allard, owned all of the company’s shares “even though the affairs of the company were really being run by Cameron Allard.”

No corporate entity actually exists under the name “Cameron Heights Joint Venture,” however, the Cameron Heights website links back to Allard Developments, another company owned by D.I.A. Holdings.

Various public documents show D.I.A. Holdings, along with Cameron Heights Joint Venture and SouthPointe Estates, have previously listed their addresses at the same Edmonton address as Allard Developments’ headquarters.

In response to a phone call from PressProgress asking for D.I.A. Holdings, a receptionist at Allard Developments’ headquarters replied: “Yes, that’s us.”

Allard Developments' headquarters

Photo credit: Google Maps

J. Cameron Allard and businessman Brad Clough are listed as corporate directors on all of the corporate entities that donated $100,000 to AFI, including Allard Developments. According to corporate records, D.I.A. Holdings amalgamated with Phenom Holdings on January 1, 2023.

A number of Allard’s corporate entities previously donated to municipal politicians in Edmonton, provincial conservative candidates in Alberta, as well as the defunct Reform Party of Canada. Clough has also made a number of large donations to the United Conservative Party, totalling thousands of dollars.

Representatives of Allard’s companies did not respond to multiple requests for comment from PressProgress about their network of corporations or donations to the Alberta First Initiative.

Alberta’s Election Financials and Contribution Disclosure Act states a “corporation is associated with another corporation if one of them is the subsidiary of the other or both are subsidiaries of the same corporation or each of them is controlled by the same person.”

The law adds that “if two corporations are associated with the same corporation at the same time, they are deemed to be associated with each other.”

“Corporations that are associated with one another … are considered a single corporation for the purposes of this Act.”

According to the Canadian Press, the Alberta First Initiative has deep ties with companies associated with the energy industry who stand to benefit from Danielle Smith’s controversial R-Star project, which would offer billions in giveaways to “incentivize” corporations to clean up their abandoned well sites.

The AFI was founded by Mackenzie Lee, a Calgary business person, who previously worked alongside Kris Kinnear, the coordinator of Smith’s 2023 UCP leadership campaign.

Kinnear, who founded the group that developed the R-Star proposal, currently works for Smith as a “special projects manager” in the Premier’s Office.

Both Lee and Kinnear were involved with Sustaining Alberta’s Energy Network (SAEN), a group pushing the controversial R-Star project.

According to the Canadian Press, donations to AFI from oil companies “increased eightfold” after Smith won the UCP leadership and became Premier.

Alberta First Initiative

Alberta First Initiative

Bradley Lafortune, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta, says Albertans might be surprised by the influence of dark money on the province’s politics.

“I think it’s important for Albertans to understand that just because there’s a different company that has donated to a third party organization doesn’t mean they’re not connected,” Lafortune told PressProgress, describing them potential as potential “conduits for dark money.”

“If you do a bit of digging, you can find probably several examples of this.”

Lafortune said his organization has focused on tightening up electoral financing rules and has seen the outsized influence of third party advertisers such as the AFI on democracy in Alberta in recent years.

“By almost any measure whether its campaign financing, or oversight and enforcement of campaign finance rules, Alberta is arguably one of the least democratic provinces in Canada,” Lafortune said. “The amount of money we see and the number of organizations that register as third party advertisers is much higher in Alberta.”

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AFI raised $40,000 in the first three quarters of 2022 from just five donors.

One of the early donors was Catherine Brownlee, who donated $5,000 to AFI and recently replaced Smith as chief lobbyist for the Alberta Enterprise Group.

Brownlee previously worked with Steve Allan, head of Jason Kenney’s Anti-Alberta Inquiry, whom she describes as a “dear friend and mentor.”


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