The Edmonton Journal is reporting this morning that approximately 28 returning officers running the show in Alberta’s 2008 election are affiliated with the Progressive Conservative Party. As others have pointed out:
That means that approx. 34% of returning officers have a known association with the Tories. For this proportion to be just by chance (that is, the returning officer population represents an accurate reflection of the population at large) there would have to be approx. 1.1 million current or former PC party members in Alberta. The PCs are popular, but not that popular.
Alberta’s Chief Returning Officer Lorne Gibson has made a number of recommendations to Tory Justice Minister Ron Stevens on how to revamp Alberta’s election process. One of these recommendations, which obviously wasn’t adopted, included:
2. Prohibition against political activity
Returning officers are currently prohibited from engaging in political activity in support of a political party or candidate, and from making a contribution under the Elections Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. There is no similar restriction on parrisan activity at the constituency association level.
All election officers, and particularly Returning Officers, must be completely non-partisan in fact and perception. The prohibition on political activity should include a restriction on constituency association level participation.
Since the Election Clerk may be called upon to replace the Returning Officer in the case of absence or inability to act, and because of the high profile of that position, the same prohibitions should apply.
a. Expand the list of prohibited activities for Returning Officer to include participation at the constituency association level.
b. Extend the prohibition against political activity to include Election Clerks.
Is it too much to ask that “all election officers, and particularly Returning Officers, must be completely non-partisan in fact and perception?” Judging Ed Stelmach‘s response to the allegations, maybe it is after 37-years of Tory governments.