Local Alberta Party members are standing by party leader Stephen Mandel after he was delivered a five-year ban from running for a provincial seat by Elections Alberta.
Stephen Mandel does not currently hold a seat, but secured the nomination for the Edmonton-McClung riding in mid-2018. He has now been banned for running for office in Alberta until 2023 because he missed the filing date for his nomination campaign finances.
St. Albert resident and Alberta Party member Stephen Khan said the ruling is unfortunate but still believes Mandel is a qualified leader for the party and the province.
“I still believe in (Mandel) very much. And I hope this issue gets resolved, because it seems to be a bit of a draconian penalty for some paperwork (not) being filed on time,” Khan said.
Khan, who previously held office with the Alberta PCs, added he is still undecided about running in the upcoming provincial election under the Alberta Party banner.
The Alberta Party's Morinville-St. Albert candidate, Neil Korotash, said he too still believes in Mandel.
Mandel is appealing the Elections Alberta decision and will have his case heard in court on Feb. 22.
Korotash and Khan are optimistic Mandel will be successful in court and think he will eventually be able to continue to try to win a seat in the Edmonton-McClung riding.
“I'm confident that come Feb. 22, the courts will see that a five-year penalty is a little harsh for a nil return on a party nomination that wasn’t even contested.
Korotash said there is no parallel between this filing error and his ability to lead the party and the province.
The local candidate sympathized with Mandel and said everybody misses a deadline sometimes and that Mandel’s just happened to be a very public deadline.
Korotash said while this incident is unfortunate, it has not shot the underdog party in the foot for the next election.
“We are still going to have the same platform, same policies,” Korotash said, adding they are the centrist alternative for Albertans who still want to balance the books but don’t want to do it on the backs of the province's most vulnerable people.
“I still believe in the party. I believe in our policies. I believe in the people.”
Albertans will be heading to the polls sometime between March 1 and May 31, giving Mandel a very short time to iron out the issues.
Mandel’s ineligibility period begins on Sept. 27 and would end in 2023, which would make him ineligible for the next two elections.
Elections Alberta requires all candidates to file their financial statements by 4:30 p.m. four months after a nomination contest wraps up.
Mandel’s nomination was held on May 12 but his paperwork was received on Sept. 27. Mandel said that was because his CFO was sick and wasn’t able to get the paperwork in on time.
UCP leader Jason Kenney has sided with Mandel, saying the punishment does not fit the crime.
“The disqualification of Stephen Mandel from running is a disproportionate sanction for a minor administrative offence,” Kenney said.
“As such, I support Stephen’s judicial appeal of his disqualification. I understand that Elections Alberta is obliged to apply the law as it is written, but the judiciary has the discretion to take into account other considerations.
St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud, who had to file her own paperwork for her own nomination, said that while there is a lot of paperwork involved in running for office, it is important to stay organized and on top of it.
“I think (it's) fairly straightforward, and I can say that too because I was recently a nomination candidate in December,” Renaud said.
The MLA said the election finance laws are very important to help shed light on how candidates are being funded while they seek public office.