The appointment of Neil Wilkinson as Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner has spurned some legitimate debate surrounding his known partisan connections to the governing PCs (which includes publicly listed donations to Ed Stelmach‘s and Jim Dinning‘s PC leadership campaigns as well as publicly endorsing a PC MLAs re-election campaign).
Much like the returning officer fiasco during the 2008 provincial election, the issue isn’t whether Wilkinson is a competent manager (which I don’t believe is in doubt), but whether his partisan affiliations give him the credibility to serve Albertans as Ethics Commissioner without bias.
Created in 1992, as an effort to restore public confidence in government, the Office of the Ethics Commissioner is mandated to be a watchdog of the Legislative branch, with the power to initiate investigations when appropriate. The very suggestion that the person holding this office could be biased de-legitimizes the credibility of the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, and will undoubtedly contribute to the already prevalent public cynicism towards government and those holding elected office.
If the Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta are truly concerned with restoring public confidence in government, they should appoint an Ethics Commissioner whose credentials are unbiased beyond repute.