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Democracy Watch calls on Chief Electoral Officer to stop making rulings on UCP, other matters, because of appearance of bias

UCP Premier Kenney, his Cabinet and MLAs control whether CEO will be reappointed for another term next April – they fired Election Commissioner likely for ruling against UCP members

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to the Chief Electoral Officer (“CEO”) and Election Commissioner Glen Resler requesting that he stop making rulings on election and political finance violations, and not choose a new Election Commissioner, because he has an appearance of bias.

CEO Resler has this bias because he is currently essentially serving at the pleasure of UCP Premier Jason Kenney, his Cabinet and UCP MLAs. Under Alberta’s Election Act (subsection 3(3)), the seven UCP MLAs who form the majority on the 11-member legislative officer committee, along with Premier Kenney and his Cabinet, will decide whether Mr. Resler is reappointed for another term by next April, just four months from now.

As a result, CEO Resler has an incentive to make rulings that will please Premier Kenney, his Cabinet and MLA’s when ruling on the 76 situations now under investigation, including when ruling on the investigation mentioned in a Star Edmonton article into Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign for the United Conservative Party (UCP) concerning alleged violations of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act (EFCDA). CEO Resler also has a clear incentive to choose as Election Commissioner a person who will please the Kenney Cabinet and UCP MLAs.

CEO Resler knows that the Kenney Cabinet and UCP MLAs introduced and passed Bill 22 likely in part to fire Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson who, as of early November 2019, had issued more than $188,000 in fines concerning violations of the law during the UCP leadership race, as summarized in this CBC article and this Global News article and this CTV News article.

The Kenney Cabinet fired Election Commissioner Gibson through Bill 22 despite extensive public criticism, and even though Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler ruled on November 21, 2019 that Kenney Cabinet ministers and UCP MLAs with associate(s) under investigation by the RCMP or Election Commissioner violated Alberta’s Conflicts of Interest Act if they discussed on voted on Bill 22, as that would further their private interest in escaping penalty by the Election Commissioner.

As a result, the firing of Election Commissioner Gibson is a clear threat to CEO Resler that ruling against the UCP in the next fourt months could cost him his job.

Law enforcement officers like CEO Resler are prohibited, under Supreme Court of Canada rulings, from having even an appearance of bias.

“The Chief Electoral Officer should stop making rulings on election violations because he knows that the UCP Kenney Cabinet fired the Election Commissioner likely because the Commissioner ruled against several UCP members, and he knows that the Cabinet and UCP MLAs have the power to fire him by next April, and so he has an incentive to please the Cabinet and UCP MLAs that taints any ruling he may make in the next few months,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“The Kenney Cabinet firing the Election Commissioner could easily change the rulings the Chief Electoral Officer makes in the next few months as he has an incentive to please the Cabinet given it will be deciding by next April whether he keeps his job for another term,” said Conacher.

Democracy Watch also recently called on the RCMP to investigate the Kenney Cabinet for obstruction of justice for firing Election Commissioner Gibson through Bill 22. Democracy Watch also called on the RCMP to insist that a special prosecutor be appointed to oversee the investigation, as it is a clear conflict of interest for Attorney General Doug Schweitzer or his deputy minister (who serves at his pleasure) to oversee an investigation of the Kenney Cabinet.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign and Government Ethics Campaign