“Public confidence in electoral process is key to democracy.”
– Prof. Lisa Young, University of Calgary
Bill 22, an omnibus bill entitled Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions and Government Enterprises Act, 2019, was hustled through the Alberta Legislature last week with a freeze on debate. This bill, which covers a wide array of topics, was introduced and passed all three readings within four days – a remarkable feat in itself. And even then, the government voted to limit debate to three hours on this extensive piece of legislation. Moreover, it was debated and passed while Premier Jason Kenney was conveniently away in Texas. What shameful leadership!
Among the many somewhat controversial sections in Bill 22 was the almost insignificant section 153.093(1), which says: “The Office of the Elections Commissioner is dissolved.”
Hold the show! The Election Commissioner is in the middle of an investigation into the allegations of wrongdoings in the 2018 leadership campaign which confirmed Jason Kenney as head of the United Conservative Party and ultimately as Premier of our province. This kamikaze campaign supposedly was led by Jeff Callaway, who entered the race allegedly to discredit Brian Jean, Kenney’s only real opponent in the race. Callaway later dropped out, only to support Kenney’s bid for leader of the UCP.
As a result of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson’s investigations, $211,000 in fines have been levied against participants in the kamikaze campaign for illegal donations and other illegal activities.
So what happens now? With the Office of Election Commissioner effectively being dissolved, Gibson is effectively fired and his former duties turned over to the Chief Electoral Officer whose tenure is up for renewal in four months. So what’s likely to happen? It seems abundantly clear that the fines levied by Gibson which are under appeal could be dropped or the appeals could be ignored, and the Premier’s friends will likely get off scot-free.
As an analogy, consider the situation if our Prime Minister when faced with the ethical allegations concerning the SNC Lavalin affair had fired the Ethics Commissioner? Is this any different than the firing of our Election Commissioner in the middle of an investigation – an investigation that has implications into the ethical conduct of our Premier? I think not! Is this travesty not a conflict of interest? Where is the integrity of Premier Kenney who we recently elected? Is this not corruption at the highest levels?
We’re great at accusing China of having a corrupt system but maybe we need to look in a mirror – I always thought we lived in a democracy but maybe I was wrong. Do we have obstruction of justice right here at home?
Ironically, Private Members Bill 207 is a bill to allow for the recall of MLAs. Should it pass, maybe we should start a petition to recall our Premier. If the Kamikaze Kids get a ‘get out of jail free’ card, compliments of their friends in the Legislature, many Albertans will justifiably lose confidence in our electoral system.
Ken Allred is a former St. Albert alderman and MLA.