Edmonton

Election commissioner's office officially dissolved: Elections Alberta

The office of the election commissioner has been dissolved and transferred to the office of the chief electoral officer, Elections Alberta said in a news release Friday.

'A timeline for the appointment of an Election Commissioner has not yet been identified'

The bill ending Lorne Gibson's role as Alberta's election commissioner is now law. (Terry Reith/CBC)

The Office of the Election Commissioner has been dissolved and transferred to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Alberta said in a news release Friday.

Bill 22, the Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions and Government Enterprises Act, came into effect on Friday, the agency said.

On Thursday, the legislature passed the bill, which included the firing of election commissioner Lorne Gibson.

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Thursday the quick passage of the bill is the mark of a premier and government "consumed by power and unconcerned by the views of Albertans."

Gibson was leading the investigation into the so-called "kamikaze" campaign of UCP leadership candidate Jeff Callaway and had levied fines against 15 people totalling $207,223.

Callaway allegedly entered the race to discredit former Wildrose leader, and Kenney's chief rival, Brian Jean, only to drop out and endorse Kenney weeks later.

Kenney and Callaway deny they worked together to defeat Jean, but emails obtained by CBC News show high-ranking Kenney officials providing resources, including strategic political direction, media, and debate talking points, speeches, videos and attack advertisements, to the Callaway campaign.

Friday's news release didn't mention Gibson by name.

It said a timeline for the appointment of a new election commissioner hasn't been identified, but that all investigations started by Gibson's office "will continue under Elections Alberta's statutory mandate."

Glen Resler, the chief electoral officer, will perform the role of the election commissioner during the transition period, the release said.

Transition activities will be taking place, "commencing with a review of the current activities of the former Office of the Election Commissioner," the release said.

Evidence preservation 

Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet, the NDP critic for democracy and ethics, sent a letter to Resler on Friday asking him to provide a report to the legislature on the steps he will take to preserve the material Gibson gathered during his investigation.

"Public confidence in the integrity of our democratic elections in Alberta has been significantly damaged," Sweet wrote. "Any loss, misplacement or destruction of the evidence being gathered by Mr. Gibson in his investigations would lead to further irreparable damage to that confidence."

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she would like a report before the fall session ends Dec. 5. 

Bill 22 was introduced Monday afternoon and passed all three stages of debate by Thursday morning. Kenney was away in Texas during the week. Reporters didn't have an opportunity to ask him about the bill until a sod-turning in Calgary on Friday. 

Kenney downplayed the firing of Gibson by characterizing the change as a consolidation of "two separate bureaucracies."

Having the election commissioner report to Resler made the position more independent, Kenney added. 

"It's very clear that any investigations get carried back to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer," Kenney said. "There's no reason for any interruption in any investigations in the Office of the [Election] Commissioner."

Notley said Elections Alberta may not have the resources to deal with all the complaints. The NDP plans to put that question to Resler when he appears before the standing committee on legislative offices Nov. 29.

"We know that the chief electoral officer did not actually have adequate resources to enforce, and investigate, and prosecute the laws that we had put in place before the commissioner's office was created," Notley said.

 

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