You’d think at some point I’d get tired of writing about Daryl Katz, but no. The guy just keeps doing the most amazing, mind-boggling things. I swear, Katz is an Edmonton version of Mitt Romney.
When last we left the klutz that is Katz, out local Monty Burns had managed to take a sure bet, multi-million dollar deal for a new arena and foul it up, possibly beyond repair. All the guy had to do was appear before city council (his partners in this deal, after all) and clear up some misunderstandings. But Katz told council he was too busy being a total jerk to appear before council, and council returned his kindness by telling him to get lost. Katz is apparently quite reclusive, but even Howard Hughes made a few public appearances when he needed to be seen.
Now, the amazing, disappearing Katz has become a provincial figure. Word came out last week (courtesy, it appears, from the Katz people themselves) that Katz, his family, his companies and his chief lieutenants had made a donation to the provincial PC party during last year’s election of something like $300,000 to $400,000. In U.S politics, that’s called ‘a nice start’, but here, it’s big money. That kind of money would have paid for the entire Liberal campaign — hell, it would have paid for three provincial Liberal campaigns.
Whether the money made any difference to the outcome of the election is impossible to tell, but I’m sure the PCs put it to good use. As you may recall, it wasn’t a brilliant advertising campaign that turned the floundering PC campaign around, but a series of dumbass statements from Wildrose candidates, combined with a wave of panic voting from Liberal and undecided voters. But still, for the Tories, the money must have seemed like manna from heaven.
As expected, the opposition is in full howl. Katz and the city of Edmonton were banking on $100 million or so from some level of government (hello, province!) for the arena, so of course the ‘optics’ of a $300,000 donation to a party you were counting on for a $100 million contribution are not good. You can always count on the bombastic Brian Mason to come up with the perfect sound bite for TV; in the legislature, Mason put on his best sorrowful face to say that it looks like our local billionaire has bought himself a political party. This is rich coming from the leader of a party that has been bought and paid for by the province’s labor unions, but no matter.
According to other reports, unnamed friends of Katz say that Daryl was just so panicked by the prospect of a Wildrose government that he decided to donate all that he could to prevent this calamity. He was just being a good citizen, after all.
As always, Katz’s actions continue to baffle. Surely, if he did donate the money in the hopes of some future quid pro quo, even a guy with his shocking lack of public relations smarts would know that the donation would come to light. Even more incredibly, the donation pretty much insures that the province will never give the arena any direct money. The ‘optics’ of that kind of arrangement — billionaire donates thousands to political party that in turn gives millions to his pet project — would quite simply destroy the PCs.
Could there be money coming from provincial funds for the arena? Maybe. But it will only be money that is given to the city of Edmonton to use as it sees fit. In the legislature on Monday, Doug Horner said repeatedly that there were no promises made in return for the money. Of course there weren’t. The PCs aren’t stupid, nor are they flagrantly corrupt. They should not have taken so much money from one source, but there is zero chance that Katz or the city of Edmonton will get $100 million for an arena thanks to that donation.