Edmonton

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley asks Ethics Commissioner to stop vote on Bill 22

"Your urgent attention to this matter is required in order to have these concerns addressed in a meaningful way," Notley says in Wednesday letter to Marguerite Trussler.

'Your urgent attention to this matter is required ... to have these concerns addressed'

Opposition leader Rachel Notley will likely have to apologize to be allowed back into the legislature. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Opposition leader Rachel Notley has asked Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler to stop Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and all other UCP MLAs from voting on Bill 22.

"As you are no doubt aware, the government has made it clear they wish to have Bill 22 voted on all stages by Thursday of this week," Notley said in the letter, sent Wednesday.

"As such, your urgent attention to this matter is required in order to have these concerns addressed in a meaningful way."

Bill 22 says the person holding the position of election commissioner will be terminated when the bill becomes law, though the chief electoral officer could hire them back. 

Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson, who stands to be fired, is investigating the United Conservative Party's 2017 leadership race, won by Kenney.

Notley's letter says Bill 22 "interferes with numerous investigations around the conduct of United Conservative Party operatives by demoting the Elections Commissioner and eliminating the independence of his investigatory functions. It is actually more likely it will result in his firing, and in the delay, suspension or cancellation of his ongoing investigations."

The bill's implications "clearly provide a material benefit to the United Conservative Party as it is their leadership contest which is being investigated," the letter says.

Calgary-East Peter Singh, who is being investigated by the election commissioner and the RCMP, "is directly impacted by the delay, suspension or cancellation of the investigation and should therefore not be allowed to vote," the letter says.

Kenney is "materially affected by the passage of Bill 22" as the leader of the UCP so should not vote on the legislation, Notley adds in the letter.

She also maintains all UCP MLAs who have been interviewed in the course of the RCMP investigation into UCP leadership vote irregularities should not be allowed to vote.

Further, all UCP MLAs are in a conflict of interest and should be barred from voting on the bill because the election commissioner's continued investigation "stands to hurt the reputational and financial status of the UCP.

"This, in turn, will negatively affect the ability of UCP members to get re-elected and continue earning the associated salary."

Earlier Wednesday, Notley said she is still refusing to apologize for remarks that got her kicked out of the Alberta legislature Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters after addressing a rally of nurses on the legislature's steps, she said she and her NDP colleagues are busy working on "other strategies" to stop the contentious legislation.

"Obviously I want to get back fairly soon — I'm the leader of the Official Opposition and I need to be in there," Notley said.

"But we are really at this point looking at extra-legislative strategies right now to try and stop this bill from passing, which [the UCP government wants] to do on Thursday."

Notley was ordered to leave the legislative assembly Tuesday after she refused to apologize for saying United Conservative Party House leader Jason Nixon was offering "misleading" statements about a bill to fire Gibson.

On Wednesday morning, following a nurses rally at the Legislature, Notley accused Nixon of "lying."

Notley said no prime minister or premier has ever interfered with "a quasi-judicial investigation about matters that impact their interests" the way Kenney has with Bill 22.

"And as I say, it's a historic abuse of power and a direct attack on the principles of our democracy, and a direct attack on anybody who would stand up and speak against this government, so we are going to work very hard to see what other things we can do," Notley said.

If Bill 22 passes, "Mr. Kenney will have earned the moniker as the most corrupt and anti-democratic premier in the history of the country," Notley said.

On Tuesday, Notley sent a letter to Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell urging her to take action on the bill Notley called a "misuse of the authority of the legislature" and "a threat to our democratic institutions" — particularly since the government has moved to limit time for debate.

The NDP is also looking at what legal steps can be taken to stop the government from firing Gibson.

NDP MLA Shannon Phillips, who chairs the legislature's public accounts committee, said the committee won't meet until it hears from Gibson about how he has spent public funds.

"Jason Kenney is doing everything he can to obstruct these investigations and we as Opposition will do everything we can to find out why, and to hear from Lorne Gibson directly," Phillips told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

"I am comfortable using every legislative opposition tool that we have — this is the only committee that we chair — to get to the bottom of this, to scrutinize the work of the election commissioner, to find out why he is being fired, and to stop Jason Kenney's obstruction of justice."

Phillips said she wants to find out how the investigations would continue without Gibson in the job.

"The government has claimed that those investigations will continue," she said. "I do not believe them, because I believe almost nothing that they say. I believe that this is an attempt to stop those investigations, to obstruct justice and to continue with corruption."

Meanwhile, hundreds of nurses rallied at the legislature, voicing opposition to a range of government policies on bargaining rights, wage rollbacks and other issues.

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