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Democracy Watch calls for investigation of whether firing of Election Commissioner was an attempt to obstruct justice

Ethics Commissioner has already concluded that Kenney Cabinet ministers with associates being investigated by Election Commissioner violated ethics law if they discussed or voted on Bill 22 firing

Election Commissioner’s investigations of UCP are judicial proceedings, and even an unsuccessful attempt to obstruct violates the Criminal Code

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, December 4, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to the Alberta RCMP through the Edmonton Police Service requesting an investigation, overseen by a special prosecutor, into whether the Kenney Cabinet obstructed justice by firing Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson.

Criminal Code subsection 139(2) prohibits attempting to obstruct, pervert or defeat a judicial proceeding, including by a tribunal like the Election Commissioner (as defined in section 118). The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2011 in the R. v. Barros case that that the prohibition is broad, and that an attempt does not have to succeed to be a violation (para. 46).

According to a Star Edmonton article, in August 2019 Election Commissioner Gibson was investigating Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign for the United Conservative Party (UCP) concerning alleged violations of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act (EFCDA). There has been no public indication from the Election Commissioner that this investigation has concluded. According to an Edmonton Journal article, there are currently 76 complaints to Alberta’s Election Commissioner awaiting assignment.

As of early November 2019, Election Commissioner Gibson 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.

On November 18, 2019, the Kenney Cabinet introduced Bill 22 which, among other changes, fired Election Commissioner Gibson. The Cabinet shoved the Bill through in only three days. While Premier Kenney and various Cabinet ministers claimed that the change would save money, in fact Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler confirmed that there will be no savings as he intended to appoint a new Election Commissioner, and was requesting more money for investigations in next year’s budget than Commissioner Gibson had proposed.

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. This ruling is a clear indication that their actions warrant investigation, as helping someone escape a penalty for a violation fairly clearly amounts to an intentional obstruction of justice.

The firing of Election Commissioner Gibson was also a clear threat to CEO Resler that ruling against the UCP could cost him his job, as the Kenney Cabinet will decide by next April whether to re-appoint Mr. Resler for another term.

“The Kenney Cabinet firing the Election Commissioner was like firing a top police investigator and a judge to try to stop trials of people associated with the Cabinet,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As a result, Democracy Watch’s opinion is that an obstruction of justice investigation is warranted because the Kenney Cabinet unethically made false claims about its reasons for firing the Election Commissioner who was investigating Premier Kenney’s leadership campaign for violations and had found several UCP members guilty of violating the law.”

“The Kenney Cabinet firing the Election Commissioner will likely change the outcome of some investigations as interim Commissioner and Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler knows that the Cabinet will be deciding by next April whether he keeps his job for another term,” said Conacher.

Democracy Watch 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. The special prosecutor should not be chosen by the Attorney General, his deputy minister, or any Kenney Cabinet minister or deputy minister, as they would all have a conflict of interest in making the appointment.

“A special prosecutor is needed to oversee the investigation of the Kenney Cabinet for possible obstruction of justice, and no Cabinet minister nor anyone who serves at the pleasure of the Cabinet can be involved in choosing the prosecutor as they all have a conflict of interest,” said Conacher.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: info@democracywatch.ca

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