Chief electoral officer free to release illegal donation details

Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk says the chief electoral officer is independent and can release details about illegal political donations
Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk said the chief electoral officer is free to release details about illegal political donations. (CBC)

Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim is free to release information about organizations found to have made illegal donations to political parties, Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk told the Alberta legislature on Wednesday.

"There is nothing in [the Election Finances Act], in my opinion, that precludes the chief electoral officer from releasing information and if he chooses to do so, he's welcome to do it," Lukaszuk said in response to a question from NDP Leader Brian Mason. "He's independent. He needs [no] permission from this government."

A CBC investigation last fall revealed evidence of illegal political donations to the Progressive Conservative party. Soon both the Wildrose and Liberal parties uncovered their own examples and laid complaints with Fjeldheim. 

Last week, he announced he had concluded probes into 59 of 79 cases, and issued administrative fines in 28 of them.

However, Fjeldheim said the law prohibited him from revealing which organizations were fined.

Both Lukaszuk and Justice Minister Jonathan Denis told the legislature earlier this week that the law keeping these details secret was based on a recommendation by Fjeldheim's predecessor, Lorne Gibson. But that was later revealed to be untrue.

Gibson recommended that only the investigation — not the outcome — was to be kept private.