Premier Ed Stelmach sidestepped questions Thursday on whether he had a hand in ousting the province's chief electoral officer, who was turfed the day before by a Tory-dominated committee.
Stelmach deferred inquires to the chairman of the standing committee on legislative offices, Conservative Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Len Mitzel.
Tory MLAs on the 11-member commit-tee voted Wednesday to recommend a special panel be struck to search for a new elections boss.The three opposition MLAs rejected the motion.
After being pressed by reporters, the premier acknowledged the Tories talked about "issues" that surfaced from last year's provincial election, but he didn't elaborate. "We've had discussions with respect to the issues coming out of the election," he said at the legislature.
Stelmach then noted that the Liberals lodged their own election complaints.
Yet, when asked whether he had lost confidence in Alberta's elections boss Lorne Gibson, whose contract expires March 3, Stelmach reflected on his riding, saying:"In Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, the election was run, actually, quite well."
All three political parties had concerns with how Elections Alberta handled the March 2008 campaign, which saw a re-cord-low 41 per cent voter turnout.
Roughly a quarter of voters had to swear in on polling day to cast a ballot. Opposition leaders, however, contend Gibson isn't to blame because the Stelmach government appointed returning officers only weeks before the election was called--and only after candidates were referred by the PC party association.
In contrast, returning officers, who are responsible for enumeration, had 13 months to prepare for the 2004 provincial election.
Liberal Leader David Swann called the committee's decision to oust Gibson, who had wanted to be reappointed, "a travesty of democracy."He said the party, whose request for an election probe was rejected by the auditor general, has concluded the Conservative government is primarily at fault for last year's problems.
NDP Leader Brian Mason suspects Gibson, who made 182 proposals for reforming Alberta's electoral laws, is losing his job because he spoke out.
Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Weber, one of eight Conservatives on the legislative offices'committee, said Gibson's assessment he's being punished for voicing concerns and proposing reforms is wrong.