Ed Stelmach Elections Alberta Kevin Taft Public Interest Alberta

doing elections right in alberta.

Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft and Public Interest Alberta are taking legal action to force the Government of Alberta to improve how elections are organized in our province. The notice of motion lists thirteen issues ranging including the appointment of returning officers with partisan connections to not notifying opposition candidates of the relocation of voting stations to the lack of voting stations on post-secondary campuses and First Nations reservations. Elections in our province are far from the corrupt processes in other jurisdictions, but the process is hardly vibrant and extraordinary in any sense of the imagination.

During the 2008 provincial election, the impartiality of Alberta’s electoral process came into question when it was discovered that half of the local Returning Officers had strong links to the governing Progressive Conservatives. Then-Liberal Leader Taft called for a complete review of how elections in Alberta are organized.

During the last election, Elections Alberta spokesperson Jacqueline Roblin told CBC that the list of returning officer nominees had “come right from the premier’s office with these names that they are recommending that they be appointed.” In the midst of an election campaign, Premier Ed Stelmach told the media in February 2008 that he would not review the appointment process.

After the 2008 election, Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson submitted a long list of recommendations to the Legislative Assembly to change how elections are organized by giving more authority to the an independent elections office. Shortly afterward, Gibson’s contract was not renewed by a PC MLA dominated committee. Not surprisingly, Taft once again tackled the issue during Question Period in that Legislative sitting.

In 2009, another partisan appointment was made during the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. Premier Stelmach later said that he had no problem with the Elections Office appointing officers, though no legislative changes have been made to reflect the statement. Earlier this month, former Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim was re-appointed to the position (he served in the position previous to Gibson from 1998 to 2005).

I do not believe that improvements to Elections Alberta organization would have changed the outcome of the last election or even increased the voter turnout higher than 40%, but that is not the point. The integrity of our representative government is based on the strength of our democracy, a large part of which is expressed in our elections process.

Alison Redford Elections Alberta Hugh MacDonald Kent Hehr Kevin Taft Lorne Gibson

opposition grills alison redford on lorne gibson dismissal.

Opposition Liberal MLAs Kevin Taft, Kent Hehr, and Hugh MacDonald grill PC Justice Minister Alison Redford on the firing of Chief Returning Officer Lorne Gibson and the continuing Election 2008 fiasco in this video clip of Question Period in the Alberta Legislature.

AGRDT has a solid run down of the commentary on Gibson’s dismissal.

(h/t to MarvinMouse for the Youtube link)

Elections Alberta Lorne Gibson

being lorne gibson.

After a rough couple years as Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer, it remains to be seen whether Lorne Gibson‘s will continue to hold the position when his contract comes up for renewal in March 2009.

During the 2008 Provincial election, the impartiality of the electoral process came under question when it was discovered that a large number of local Returning Officers had strong links to the governing PC Party. In 2006, Gibson submitted a long list of recommendations to the Legislative Assembly to change how elections are organized by giving more authority to the non-partisan elections office and he recently called for a revamping of Alberta’s financial disclosure rules.

Word on the street is that Gibson will soon be inviting each of Alberta’s registered political parties to appoint two representatives to a committee that will be charged with comprehensively reviewing Alberta’s elections processes from their standpoint.

Alberta Elections Act Alberta Greens Elections Alberta Section 23 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

greens to launch constitutional challenge.

The Alberta Greens sent out a media release today announcing that they will be launching a constitutional challenge against the Alberta Elections Act.

Media Release- Alberta Green Challenge Elections Act

(Calgary, Apr 14, 2008) The Alberta Greens have sent a letter to the Attorney General Alison Redford asking her to change the Alberta Elections Act by Sept 10th,2008, if not the party will proceed with legal action.

“Ed Stelmach was elected by only 20% of Albertans,” said Read. “Obviously, when only 40% of voters turn out something is seriously wrong with our democracy,” said Alberta Greens leader, George Read.

The constitutional challenge, to go ahead this fall unless the government amends the Act, says section 62(2) interferes with the rights of candidates and supporters of small political parties to participate in elections and therefore contravenes the electoral fairness required by section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Read said the provision, which denies the return of half a candidates deposit unless they receive at least half as many votes as are received by the candidate who is elected, cost the Alberta Greens a significant amount of money that it could otherwise use to promote its positions to the voters.

Both the Canadian government and the Ontario government have been forced to change similar provisions in their Election Acts because they were struck down by the courts. “We hope that the Attorney General will do the right thing for democracy,” said Read.

As much as I’d love to comment on this right now, I’m in the middle of wrapping up a paper on Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the context of Mahe v. Alberta, so I’ll have to tackle the Greens challenge later this week…

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.

Elections Alberta

vote online.

Elections Alberta has moved into the 21st century – Albertans can now register to vote online!

Alberta Politics Campaign Finance Elections Alberta

the money of politics in alberta.

Elections Alberta has quietly launched the new online electoral finance website.

Though the website only contains political financial contribution records dating back to 2004, it is quite an interesting read and it will save you from having to go down to the Elections Alberta office and sort through the paper copies…