2008 Alberta Provincial Election Chris Kibermanis Conflict-of-Interest Legislation Edmonton Castle Downs Thomas Lukaszuk

cro fiasco spreads to edmonton-castle downs.

The Tory CRO scandal continues after it was uncovered that the Returning Officer in Edmonton-Castle Downs is the former Executive Assistant to the current Tory MLA Thomas Lukaszuk. Earlier in the campaign, it became public that after the current Tory government ignored recommendations by the Chief Electoral Officer to clean-up Alberta’s election system, lists of appointees for these positions continued to be generated by the PC Party and the Premier’s Office.

In 2004, Castle Downs was the home to the closest race in the province after Lukaszuk defeated Alberta Liberal Chris Kibermanis by 3 votes after three judicial recounts.

Read previous posts on the CRO fiasco here, here, here, and here.

2008 Alberta Provincial Election Conflict-of-Interest Legislation Elections Alberta Kevin Taft

a modest proposal.

Calgary Grit has a pretty good rundown of the ongoing Tory CRO appointment scandal and here’s a great clip from Friday’s Edmonton Journal:

“On Thursday, Stelmach insisted he had nothing to do with selecting the returning officers. Tom Olsen, a spokesman for the premier, later clarified that Conservative MLAs and Tory constituency associations put names forward to party officials, and those officials submit the list to the chief electoral officer at Elections Alberta. Cabinet then approves the choices through an order-in-council.”

Here’s some video footage that I took of Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft announcing that an Alberta Liberal government will put the Chief Electoral Officer in charge of ensuring free and fair elections in Alberta, rather than… say… the Progressive Conservative Party. A modest proposal if I’ve ever heard one…

2008 Alberta Provincial Election Conflict-of-Interest Legislation Ed Stelmach Elections Alberta Katherine Harris

katherine harris appointed as alberta’s chief returning officer.

In a stunning mid-election move, Alberta Tory leader Ed Stelmach has appointed former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris as Alberta’s new Chief Returning Officer.

Stelmach, who has also appointed a number of PC-affiliated, but completely unbiased, local Returning Officers (including PC Constituency Officials and failed PC nomination candidates) declared that this move was part of his party’s plan for change that works for Albertans.

Faced with criticism, Stelmach was quick hit to hit back: “there are many people that I know… that are in Alberta… met over the years… so are you saying anyone that anybody I shook a hand with the optics are that they can’t ever serve as a deputy returning officer?

As Republican Secretary of State for the State of Florida, Harris presided over the 2000 US presidential election in that state. Though there were allegations of conflicts of interest and partisan, unethical behavior by Harris during the 2000 campaign, they were mostly leveled by know-it-all liberal-types who didn’t support Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush in the first place. A year before the 2000 election, Harris had been named as Bush’s Florida campaign co-chair, a position that did not create a bias during the election. The 2000 US Presidential Election in Florida went off without a hitch.

With half of current Returning Officers appointed by Stelmach having strong connections to the 37-year-old Progressive Conservative government, it is only fair that a completely unbiased individual with a clear record of unbiased and fair involvement in elections, such as Katherine Harris, help make sure that Alberta’s elections turn out the way they should.

2008 Alberta Provincial Election Conflict-of-Interest Legislation Ed Stelmach Elections Alberta

"they come right from the premier’s office."

Can someone please explain to me how the Premier of Alberta recommending appointments of election Returning Officers is appropriate on any level?

Conservative Leader Ed Stelmach said he doesn’t believe the Tory connections are a problem, especially since all returning officers are picked by the chief electoral officer.

“They’re all interviewed by the chief electoral officer and were selected by the electoral officer,” Stelmach said Tuesday in Strathmore.

But Jacqueline Roblin, spokeswoman for Elections Alberta, said the names of returning officers actually come directly from Stelmach.

“They come right from the premier’s office with these names that they are recommending that they be appointed,” she said Wednesday.

Roblin said candidates for returning officer jobs are interviewed by the chief electoral officer to ensure they follow provincial law. She said about half of the returning officers questioned have connections to the Tories, while the other half said they don’t have ties to any political party.

I wish someone could explain to me how Ed Stelmach doesn’t think this is an issue?

2008 Alberta Provincial Election Conflict-of-Interest Legislation Elections Alberta

34% of returning officers have a known association with the tories.

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.

2008 Alberta Provincial Election Change that works for Tory Insiders Conflict-of-Interest Legislation Ed Stelmach Ralph Klein

more on change that works for tory insiders.

As I wrote earlier this week, only hours before the March 3 election was called Tory leader Ed Stelmach and his cabinet changed the date that Alberta’s new conflict-of-interest legislation take effect. This change means that the tougher conflict-of-interest rules don’t apply to retiring or defeated Tory cabinet ministers and MLAs.

A quick look back in time shows that when former Tory leader Ralph Klein implemented new conflict-of-interest rules he did so over three months before the 1993 election, instead of waiting until after the election. I didn’t think that this is what Ed Stelmach meant when he started trying to distance himself from Klein…

The timing of the change raises some important questions:

Which cabinet ministers supported this decision? Did retiring cabinet ministers Lyle Oberg and Greg Melchin participate or influence this decision?

Which cabinet ministers believed that their fellow Tories shouldn’t been held to account under the new rules?

Does 37-years in power give you the right to decide that your friends are above the rules?

These are only some of the questions that Albertans shouldn’t hesitate to ask their Progressive Conservative candidates, MLAs, and cabinet ministers. Albertans deserve to know the answers.
Albertans deserve better from their elected representatives. Albertans deserve better from their government.

2008 Alberta Provincial Election Conflict-of-Interest Legislation Ed Stelmach

change that works for tory insiders.

Hours before the election was called on Monday, Tory leader Ed Stelmach and his cabinet amended the newly adopted conflict of interest rules so that they wouldn’t apply to Tory Ministers or MLAs who are retiring or are defeated in the March 3 election.

…the Tory cabinet approved an order-in-council to have the Conflicts of Interest Amendment Act take effect on April 1, nearly a month after the March 3 vote. A government worker had earlier told The Journal the rules would be in place before the campaign began.

It means retiring finance ministers Lyle Oberg and Greg Melchin don’t have to wait 12 months before they can start lobbying their former government on behalf of auto insurers or oilsands companies — only the six months for ex-ministers under the old law.

And the premier’s chief of staff, his deputies and all ministers’ senior aides have no restrictions on their dealings if they hit the exits following the election, which they traditionally do in droves.

Ed Stelmach introduced the new conflict of interest legislation last year as part of his then-commitment to Albertans be open and accountable (maybe he meant after he got re-elected). Here’s a list of retiring Tory Ministers and MLAs who are getting a pass on Alberta’s conflict-of-interest laws:

* Tony Abbott, Drayton Valley-Calmar
* Mike Cardinal, Athabasca-Redwater
* Harvey Cenaiko, Calgary Buffalo
* David Coutts, Livingstone-Macleod
* Victor Doerksen, Red Deer South
* Denis Ducharme, Bonnyville-Cold Lake

* Clint Dunford, Lethbridge West
* Gordon Graydon, Grande Prairie Wapiti

* Carol Haley, Airdrie-Chestermere
* Denis Herard, Calgary Egmont
* LeRoy Johnson, Wetaskiwin-Camrose
* Rob Lougheed, Strathcona
* Greg Melchin, Calgary North West
* Richard Magnus, Calgary North Hill
* Lyle Oberg, Strathmore-Brooks
* Hung Pham, Calgary Montrose
* Ivan Strang, West Yellowhead

Ten of these Tory MLAs are former Tory cabinet ministers (in bold) and two were in Ed Stelmach‘s cabinet when the amendment was made on Monday.

Here’s a question for Albertans to ask Ed Stelmach and local Tory candidates:

Why don’t Alberta’s conflict-of-interest rules apply to Tory insiders?