This week Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson asked Premier Alison Redford to explain a law she passed as Justice Minister which prohibits Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer from being transparent with the public with regards to results of investigations. Redford replied the reason for the new law was not to cover up investigations into questionable PC actions, but was simply a matter of following through on recommendations put forward by former CEO Lorne Gibson, who spoke out against the PCs in 2008 and was curiously not reappointed to his position.
Click here to read the full exchange between Redford and Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson (page 759). Here are the FACTS: The recommendation the Premier is referring to is found on p. 85, Part 6 of the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the 2008 Provincial General Election. Recommendation 26.d. is to "Add specific direction that an investigation shall be conducted in private." Note that the request is only that the investigation itself be conducted confidentially, which is a common practice to protect the innocent and not prejudge outcomes. The recommendation is not that the Officer be bound from ever revealing those found guilty and penalized. Yet this eternal silence is exactly what Justice Minister Redford bound him to in the following passage: of the Election Act 4.2 (4) Subject to subsection (5), any former Chief Electoral Officer and every person who is or was employed or engaged by the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer shall maintain the confidentiality of all information and allegations that come to their knowledge in the course of an inquiry or investigation. Far from wanting to keep guilty parties secret, Mr. Gibson expressed some frustration at the department of the Justice Minister (both before and during Ms. Redford’s tenure) refusing to press charges in the cases where he found adequate evidence to hand over to them. The Justice department’s prosecutors refused to follow up on any of the 19 cases against the PC party referred to them by Gibson. Furthermore, Redford kept the details of the non-prosecuted investigations hush-hush, stating in Question Period that she did not want to disclose information wherein “honest mistakes” may have been the source for the errors. (Question Period, February 19, 2009). Redford also rejected calls to follow the lead of BC and Manitoba and mandate that a special prosecutor handle all cases where there is a request to investigate the activities of a political party, especially the governing party where there is a clear conflict of interest. Under Redford’s Election Act, the PC party is immune from any prosecutions or fines going back beyond April 22, 2010, and there is a three-year statute of limitations. This means that the PC party is heading into this election with unknown illegal gains, even from within the 2008-12 election cycle.