1. Prentice reverses charitable tax credit reduction
After significant criticism, Prentice reversed a decision to reduce the charitable donation tax credit. Former Wildrose Party employee Brad Tennant founded the Albertans 4 Giving petition which organized citizen pressure to make this change.
The provincial budget, unveiled in March, saw the PC Party slash the tax credit to 12.75 from 21 per cent on donations of more than $200. Finance Minister Robin Campbell estimated this change would save $90 million annually. Prentice said reversing this decision will not impact his timeline to balance the budget by 2017.
Prentice said reducing the charitable tax credit put non-profit organizations at a disadvantage, and may have hindered fundraising efforts in difficult economic times. “It’s hard to admit you’re wrong, but it’s also important to know when to do so,” he said.
Opposition parties applauded the decision, but noted charitable tax credits should never have been cut in the first place.
2. PC candidate Thomas Lukaszuk goes off-script
Edmonton-Castle Downs PC candidate Thomas Lukaszuk went off script last week, advocating for corporate tax increases. Lukaszuk said, “I’m hearing at the doors [that] a modest—even as little as a half per cent—increase to address some of the revenue shortage and make true on the fact that we are all in it together.” Lukaszuk has strayed from the PC Party line before, speaking out against controversial Bill 10 addressing gay-straight alliances in December 2014. Prentice has warned against corporate tax increases, stating that they would result in job losses in the province.
Lukaszuk was deputy premier under former premier Alison Redford, and came third in the PC leadership race against Prentice.
3. NDP spams “target candidates” on Twitter
An NDP automated social media campaign was criticized last week when regular Twitter users accused it of filling popular political hashtag feeds with spam.
The social campaign asked NDP supporters to target five Edmonton PC candidates, including Chris LaBossiere, David Dorward, Janice Sarich, Steve Young and Catherine Keill, with an automatic message asking them to raise corporate taxes. The volume of identical tweets led to numerous snarky tweets from other users criticizing the NDP for interrupting online discussions.
Some commentators have suggested the NDP must see these ridings as “most winnable” given their social media “target” status. Despite the criticism of this campaign, the NDP says it will continue with its automated social media campaigns; “Twitter is another way for voters to engage with politicians,” said an NDP spokesperson.
4. PC candidate David Xiao’s campaign manager resigns over “Islamophobic” online comments
Graham Fletcher, former campaign manager for Edmonton-McClung PC candidate David Xiao, resigned early last week after his controversial social media posts surfaced. Fletcher’s posts were exposed by local social media personality Kathleen Smith, also known as KikkiPlanet. Screen captures posted by Smith show Fletcher making comments such as, “Anybody as fed up as I am having Muslims put their big offended foot into the middle of every damn thing out there?”
“There is no place for these views in our party,” PC Party officials said in a Twitter statement accepting Graham Fletcher’s resignation.
Fletcher’s resignation is the just latest challenge for Xiao. In October 2014, Xiao was disqualified by the federal Conservative Party when he attempted to seek a party nomination. He has consistently come under fire for his large expense claims, including $35,000 on mileage in 2013—more than any of his Edmonton colleagues. That being said, Edmonton-McClung proved to be a PC stronghold in the 2012 provincial election when Xiao won his second term with 46.65 per cent of the vote.
5. Justice Minister Jonathan Denis resigns his cabinet post
This week, Justice Minister and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis resigned his cabinet post. Premier Jim Prentice said he asked Denis to step down when he became aware of non-criminal court proceedings involving Denis’ estranged wife.
Denis, who was victim earlier in the campaign to political vandalism when his name was modified on several campaign signs to read “Jonathan Penis,” asked for privacy and said he resigned over a personal family issue.
Denis will remain the PC candidate in Calgary-Acadia. Prentice said he has faith in Denis “as a candidate and as a person.” Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson will take over Denis’ former cabinet portfolios on an interim basis.