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Commentary: Dissolving election commissioner’s office a disgrace

MVT Simon Ducatel mug
Simon Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up.

The UCP government raised many concerned eyebrows last week after ramming through with almost no meaningful debate a voluminous omnibus bill.

One part of the controversial legislation, which NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley called "corrupt," effectively terminates the standalone election commissioner’s office. Lorne Gibson, the current election commissioner whose contract was to expire in 2023, will find himself looking for work if and when the bill receives royal assent. But, the UCP says in a weak defence, he could be rehired. "Could" being the key word of course.

Gibson’s office has over the course of the past roughly two years doled out well over $200,000 in fines against numerous individuals and organizations involved with Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership campaign bid in 2017. Previously leaked documents revealed that people working on the UCP leadership campaigns for both Kenney and Callaway spent months exchanging strategy ideas as well as advertising plans and talking points to eliminate former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean as a contender to the throne. Predictably, Kenney claims to have no clue about the communications.

Meanwhile, the RCMP — which Kenney has also openly mused about firing and replacing with his own personal provincial police force — continues to investigate allegations about the so-called Kamikaze campaign.

The optics of the UCP’s most recent move to quash, or at the very least hamper and obfuscate, further investigative efforts just don’t look good, regardless of what the government’s spin on the situation is.

After all, nothing says, “I’m innocent!” quite like firing the person in charge of the office investigating your actions. So much for transparency and accountability.

Even the U.S.’s embattled president has never resorted to such blatant attempts to undermine democracy.

Alberta’s premier should remember that winning a majority mandate does not mean he gets to act with impunity.

The government, which also took steps to limit debate on the bill — in and of itself a highly questionable move for such a massive piece of legislation — has defended its actions as part of an effort to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. But $1 million over five years barely amounts to a molecule in a single drop in the bucket for the provincial budget.  

If Kenney’s administration is so obsessed with saving our hard-earned tax dollars, perhaps it can start with finding more affordable accommodations than luxury five-star hotels for his war room advisors.

Also rammed through in Bill 22 were changes to teachers’ pensions — transferring the funds to the Alberta Investment Management Corporations from the Alberta Teacher’s Retirement Fund — a move essentially universally, and understandably, opposed by our province’s educators, who weren’t even consulted.  

Further adding insult to injury, Kenney was completely absent, away galavanting in Texas, as this democratic debacle unfolded.

How the UCP expects anyone capable of critical thought to believe such a controversial omnibus bill was granted enough opportunity for debate after being rushed through in mere days is flabbergasting. I've seen Sundre's municipal council take a longer period of time to consider much more modest bills. 

Perhaps the late Bob Marley said it best.

“You can fool some people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.”

Simon Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up.