Premier mum on ouster of Alberta's chief electoral officer



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.


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Fran Irwin, Medicine Hat
February 20, 2009 - 2:58 PM
 Add to this the 19 violations of Alberta's election Code which the now-fired Chief Electoral Officer turned over to Alberta Justice for prosecution which ARE NOW BEING IGNORED BY ALBERTA JUSTICE! The Justice Minister stood in the Leg and claimed it was "Not in the public interest to prosecute." Well it certainly would not be in the PC Party's interest - but in a democracy, when there are serious election violations that an independent officer of the Legislature (the past Chief Electoral Officer) feels are worthy of prosecution - you don't ignore him or her! Oh yes, Stelmach all but confirmed that the past practice of having Progressive Conservative Party Officials nominate ALL of the Returning Officers throughout the Province. In my community, the Returning Officer was not only incompetent but best buddies with the PC Incumbent's Campaign Manager - he gave the other Candidates' teams nothing but grief and failed to enumerate huge chunks of voters in new areas. Election dat was hell - people directed to the wrong polling station - people turned away because they were not on the list and they were NOT offered the declaration that would allow them to vote! Only 32.4% of the total estimated eligible voter even cast a ballot. There was method to Stelmach's madness - and democracy in Alberta is in peril if this issue is not resolved!
B. Eware
February 20, 2009 - 8:21 AM
 "... the Stelmach government appointed returning officers only weeks before the election was called--and only after candidates were referred by the PC party association." Um, correct me if I'm mistaken, but isn't this the kind of tactic Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe used in the election prior to the one where he just 'forced' everyone to vote for him? This reeks of conflict-of-interest and even rigged results. At some point, Alberta, you're going to have to elect a different government just to ensure the democratic process still works in this province. From here, it looks more and more like the Tories fully expect to run this province ad infinitum, whether you vote for them or not. Scary.
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