Edmonton

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel allowed to run in election, judge rules

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel will be allowed to run in the provincial election following a ruling Monday from a Court of Queen's Bench judge.

Mandel asked the Court of Queen's Bench to rule on a five-year ban imposed by Elections Alberta

Stephen Mandel was "elated" with a Court of Queen's Bench ruling announced Monday that will allow him to run in the upcoming provincial election. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel will be allowed to run in the provincial election following a ruling Monday from a Court of Queen's Bench judge.

Mandel challenged a Feb. 9 decision by Elections Alberta that imposed a five-year ban after he failed to meet the deadline for filing expense documents related to his nomination in Edmonton-McClung.

The case was heard a week ago and Justice Gaylene Kendell released her ruling on Monday.

"The applicants submit that the benefits of strictly enforcing the return deadline in the circumstances of this case are minimal, and drastically outweigh the adverse consequences of strict enforcement, warranting a relaxation of the deadline to file," the judge wrote. "I agree."

Had the ban been upheld, Mandel would have been prevented from running for public office until 2023, meaning he would have been ineligible for this spring's election.

Mandel was one of seven Alberta Party candidates that Elections Alberta ruled in February were ineligible to run for office. Eight people from other parties were also listed as ineligible — six from the United Conservative Party and two from NDP — though none of those candidates secured their party's nominations.

Under the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, candidates are required to file financial statements four months after the conclusion of a nomination contest.

Mandel's nomination contest in Edmonton-McClung was held on May 12, 2018. His financial statement was therefore required by Elections Alberta to be filed by Sept. 12, but Mandel's statement was stamped as received on Sept. 27.

The job of filing the campaign paperwork fell to the campaign's chief financial officer Brian Heidecker. Both Heidecker and Mandel signed and dated the document on Sept. 24.

Heidecker has since said he became ill last summer, leaving him unable to complete the filing.

He said in an affidavit that he had never missed a deadline throughout eleven elections.

The former mayor of Edmonton called the legislation "draconian, vindictive undemocratic piece of legislation" Monday evening.

"The government has to stop weaponizing themselves against other politicians. That's what happened here. I think this is a piece of legislation that is meant to be vindictive," Mandel said. 

Mandel's lawyer said the campaign didn't accept donations or spend any money.

In her 12-page ruling, Kendell cited several mitigating circumstances:

  • that the campaign acted in good faith;
  • that Heidecker suffered an illness;
  • the short length of the delay;
  • the promptness in addressing the non-compliance;
  • the nomination contest had been uncontested;
  • the return filed showed no money raised or spent;
  • and the fact that a nomination contest is an "internal process that is less central to the elections process."

When collectively weighed against the adverse consequences of a five-year prohibition against running in an election,  and given the timing to seek a remedy just before an expected election call, the judge said she decided to exercise her discretion under the legislation to ​retroactively extend the deadline for filing the nomination campaign return to Sept. 27, 2018.

That means Mandel will be allowed to run.

"We're ready to go. We beat them in the courts and we're going to beat them in the field," he said. 

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