thumb-2023-05-03-danielle-smith-alberta-first-tinitiative This article is more than 1 year old

Real Estate Developers and Oil Executives Hand Another $185,000 to Pro-Danielle Smith Third Party Group

Updated Elections Alberta disclosures reveal names of a dozen wealthy Alberta businessmen tied to third party election advertiser

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A Pro-Danielle Smith group that’s running attack ads during the provincial election has received another big boost in funding from a small group of Calgary business elites.

The Alberta First Initiative, a third-party election advertiser that says it is seeking “greater Alberta autonomy,” raised $185,000 from a small group of a dozen or so Calgary-area businessmen with ties to real estate and the oil industry.

The recent wave of money is on top of an additional $340,000 the group raised late last year from other wealthy businessmen shortly after Smith won the UCP leadership.

Recently updated Elections Alberta disclosures reveal the names of 11 individuals who donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Alberta First Initiative:

  • Thomas Dawson ($30,000)
  • Ross Glen ($28,000)
  • Daryl Gilbert ($25,000)
  • Jay Westman ($25,000)
  • Cal Wenzel ($25,000)
  • Scott Bratt ($15,000)
  • Maurice Wayne McCaig ($10,000)
  • Al Morrison ($10,000)
  • Jarvis Nicoll ($7,500)
  • Douglas Kay James ($5,000)
  • Marshall Toner ($5,000)

Only one of the individuals named in the Elections Alberta filings responded to requests from PressProgress seeking to confirm their donations to AFI or explain their reasons for donating thousands and thousands of dollars.

Marshall Toner, a Calgary-based executive in commercial real estate, says he was unable to remember making a $5,000 donation to the group.

“I’ve made quite a few donations,” Toner told PressProgress. “I’m not sure.”

Several names listed on the Alberta First Initiative’s financial discloses are identical to names of prominent Calgary developers.

One familiar name is “Cal Wenzel,” which is listed as making a large $25,000 donation to the third-party election advertiser.

Real estate developer Cal Wenzel is a well-known name in Calgary where he is involved with suburban development and right-wing political activities.

In 2013, Wenzel was caught on a recording boasting how 11 developers coughed a combined $1.1 million to the right-wing Manning Centre to train candidates for Calgary’s municipal election.

Wenzel did not respond to requests for comment from PressProgress.

Jay Westman and Al Morrison are also the names of prominent Calgary real estate developers.

Ross Glenn, meanwhile, is the name of the founder of a Calgary office furniture company.

Other donors’ names are identical to figures in Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

Thomas Dawson, for example, is the same name as a top executive for Pieridae Energy.

Maurice McCaig, Jarvis Nicoll and James Douglas Kay are also associated with top executives at oil and gas companies.

The name Daryl Gilbert appears listed as a director on several energy companies, including Whitecap Resources. During the 2019 federal election Whitecap CEO Grant Fagerheim sent an email to employees warning that Alberta could separate from Canada unless voters delivered a victory for Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.

Funding for the AFI ballooned in the last quarter of 2022, shortly after Smith won the UCP leadership.

Elections Alberta filings for 2022 show $100,000, nearly one-third of all funding last year, flowed into AFI through a web of companies tied to Edmonton developer J. Cameron Allard as reported by PressProgress.

Another big money donor to AFI was Lindsay Haag, the owner and CEO of Environmental Metal Works, a company that manufactures garbage dumpsters.

Elections Alberta filings show Haag donated $60,000 to the third party advertiser in the final quarter of 2022 – double the maximum amount allowed under law.

Known for its expensive hockey game ad buys promoting Smith, the group says it supports policies for “a more autonomous Alberta.”

Canadian Press reported the AFI has deep ties with companies associated with the Alberta energy industry that stand to benefit from Danielle Smith’s controversial R-Star project, now known as the liability management incentive program which she pitched while working as a lobbyist last year.

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

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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.


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Stephen Magusiak
Stephen Magusiak is PressProgress’ Alberta reporter. His reporting has a focus on public accountability, public services and privatization, and the right-wing war on environmentalists.

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