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.

Don Iveson EPCOR Kevin Taft Public Interest Alberta

transparency and epcor privatization.

Edmonton City Council’s vote to privatize the power production portions of EPCOR was held as a private shareholders meeting (the City of Edmonton owns 100% of the shares), but no rules were broken. What’s the real issue? The privatization or how the decision was made?

– While I thought the Edmonton Journal’s ‘MAJOR ABUSE OF POWER’ headline was a tad bit sensationalist considering that Council conducted itself within the rules laid out before them, I do think the transparency issue needs to be addressed for future decisions. Councillor Don Iveson has already said that he plans on introducing a motion that would require councillors to make decisions about significant Epcor asset sales or restructuring at council rather than shareholder meetings.

“There are a number of fair reasons why the recent Capital Power decision was made that way, but I don’t want to be asked to make any further decisions that way.”

“Our accountability is clearer when we are meeting as councillors than if we’re meeting as shareholders.”

Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft has written an op-ed on the EPCOR issue, arguing that Council should put entire process on hold to allow public scrutiny.

– The Our Power Citizens Group is trying to start a larger debate on the EPCOR issue, but who is behind this group? The address listed on their website is the same as Public Interest Alberta. The group will be hosting a meeting on Wednesday, July 8th at 7:30 PM at the Central Lions Seniors Centre 11113 — 113 Street.

Public Interest Alberta


Public Interest Alberta held their Annual General Meeting on Saturday (I meant to go, but didn’t make it in the end). At the AGM, Jackie Flanagan, Publisher of Alberta Views Magazine received the “Public Interest Award for her work with the magazine and as an advocate of the public good.” Video clips of Flanagan’s acceptance speech are below for your viewing pleasure:

Municipal Politics Public Interest Alberta

spring sunday.

Let me preface this post by reflecting that even though Spring in Edmonton has had a few noteable false starts this year (snow last week and snow two weeks before that) it actually feels like a nice fresh Spring day this morning. As allergy season sets in for us unlucky ones, let’s hope that Summer comes soon.

This weekend’s Public Interest Alberta conference was interesting. I spoke at the Post-Secondary Educaiton discussion breakout sessions and found that there was some good conversations, but I most enjoyed attending the Cities discussion breakout session. The Cities sessions was hosted by Amarjeet Sohi – 2004 Edmonton City Council candidate in Ward 6, Jim Gurnett – Executive Director of the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, and Janice Melnychuk – Edmonton City Councillor from Ward 3.

I’ve found myself beoming more interested in Municipal issues over the past year (being involved in lobbying City Councillors and presenting to Council Committees). Much of the discussion surrounded the need for more affordable housing, better public transit, and more regional cooperation between the Capital Region’s 22 Municipalities. I think I may write another individual post on this issue.

I also had a very interesting conversation with Tyson Slocum, who is a Director with Public Citizen‘s Energy Program in Washington DC. Public Citizen was a consumer advocacy group set up by Ralph Nader in 1971. Our conversation ranged in topics, but it stemmed from his speech to the conference delegates when he mentioned that the energy industry in the United States spends over $500,000,000 lobbying politicians and decision makers in Washington DC. That number simply blew me away. If you can even survive when competing against a budget that size your group must be amazing, but if you can survive AND be a political player at the same time – that shows how strong your organization really is.

Alberta Politics Canadian Politics Public Interest Alberta

where to from here?

It’s a balmy +4C here in Edmonton and in case there were any doubts I believe (*hope*) that Spring is here to stay!

A couple of things…

– Over the past couple months, Public Interest Alberta has released a number of discussion documents on some hot topics in Alberta.

This week, PIA released it’s Post-Secondary Education plan – Where to from Here: A Vision and Plan for Post-secondary Education in Alberta and it lays out some solid recommendations for how to improve the affordability, accessibility, and quality of Alberta’s post-secondary system. Democratic Renewal in Alberta: A Public Interest Alberta Discussion Paper is another hard hitting democratic reform document that PIA released a couple of months ago.

You can also check out to watch an interview with PIA Chairman Larry Booi.

The Federal Budget. It seems federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is fairly pleased with himself for fixing the fiscal imbalance. Unfortunately for Minister Flaherty, a number of folks on the otherside of the “imbalance” tend to disagree.

– The Quebec Provincial Election is on Monday. I’ll be spending a month or more in Quebec over the Summer, so I’ll be watching this one with interest (I was actually in Montreal during the 2003 Quebec Provincial Election).

It should be close as poll after poll have shown the three main parties within striking distance of each other!

– And for you fans of election debates, this is for you!