Conservative linked to Katz donation named chairman of the Alberta Economic Development Authority

Long-time party fundraiser Barry Heck points out the position is unpaid
 By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton Journal January 31, 2013

EDMONTON – Premier Alison Redford has given a provincial political appointment to a veteran Conservative insider who allegedly brokered a $430,000 donation from Oilers owner and billionaire Daryl Katz.

Media reports quoting unnamed sources suggested Wednesday that Calgary businessman Barry Heck is the party fundraiser who persuaded Katz to make the donation now under investigation by Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer.

Redford has named Heck chairman of the Alberta Economic Development Authority.

Heck has declined to comment on the allegations, citing the ongoing investigation.

“I’m not saying I did or I didn’t … I’m neither confirming nor denying,” Heck said in an interview Wednesday. “I’ve got nothing to say on it.

“I’m not involved in the investigation, that’s between the party and the chief electoral officer. I haven’t been asked to give a statement by the investigators.”

Heck said he has known Katz since the two attended law school at the University of Alberta three decades ago, and added he has long worked to raise money for the governing Tories.

“I have nothing to hide,” Heck said. “I make no secret of the fact that I’ve been a volunteer for the PC party for 30 years, going back to Premier (Ralph) Klein and before that.

“I’ve been financially supportive of various candidates and constituencies in the PC party for many years. It was well known I was involved in the premier’s leadership campaign.”

Heck also confirmed he made a $5,000 contribution to Redford’s leadership bid in 2011, and said he has worked “door knocking, delivering flyers and picking up pizza” in her Calgary-Elbow riding for years.

He took umbrage at suggestions he had somehow received a “plumb post” in exchange for his volunteer efforts, noting the position is unpaid.

“I’ve been asked to serve and to try, to the extent I can, to help our province,” Heck said. “That’s what this is about for me.”

Redford announced Heck’s appointment in a lunch hour speech to the Canada Club at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel on Wednesday. She said the allegations against him are unfounded.

“Barry Heck has been a volunteer in our party for many years. He was someone who decided he wanted to help our party raise money. That’s what we do in a campaign,” Redford said.

“We have right now in Alberta the chief electoral officer who’s taking a look at this. We’re going to leave that there. I’m entirely confident with respect to everyone’s conduct. I’m not going to stop the business of government because of unfounded allegations that people are making for political purposes.”

During the fall sitting of the legislature, the Globe and Mail published a story quoting an unnamed source who said Katz wrote a single $430,000 cheque to Progressive Conservative Party during the spring provincial election.

Alberta election laws prohibit an individual from giving more than $30,000 to a single party during an election campaign.

The source alleged the single cheque was split into smaller amounts that were attributed to people affiliated with Katz, in an alleged effort to skirt the election laws.

Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim launched an investigation into the allegations and hired retired Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Ernest Marshall to oversee it.

Fjeldheim has not said when the investigation will conclude.

With files from the Calgary Herald

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