Lorne Gibson, Alberta’s elections commissioner, has had his differences with the province’s Conservatives. In 2009, he was Alberta’s chief electoral officer and, unhappy with the 2008 election, he recommended 182 reforms to the province’s electoral system. The Conservative government of the time was not amused and failed to renew his contract. The NDP, however, admired the cut of his jib and hired him for the new office of election commissioner created under the Act to Strengthen and Protect Democracy in Alberta.
Now Gibson has got under the skin of the Conservatives again. He has been investigating the so-called “kamikaze” campaign (Read more…) Jeff Callaway for leadership of the newly-formed United Conservative Party (UCP). Callaway allegedly entered the race to discredit Kenney’s chief rival, Brian Jean, only to drop out and endorse Kenney weeks later. So far Gibson’s investigation has resulted in fines against 15 people totaling $207,223. The investigation now may be coming to an end. The UCP has introduced Bill 22 which, among other things, will eliminate the position of elections commissioner.
The election commissioner is an independent officer of the legislature and to fire him in the midst of an investigation of the governing party is an act of extraordinary arrogance. Furthermore, the UCP intends to invoke closure on the bill limiting debate to three hours, all while Premier Kenney ducks the debate entirely with a visit to Texas.
The UCP has said that the chief electoral officer could rehire Gibson or a replacement and continue the investigation. However, there is no timeline and, in any case, the current chief electoral officer’s contract is up in April. The UCP will then choose a new officer which, considering they are under investigation, is rather like a defendant in court choosing his own judge. The RCMP is also investigating the UCP leadership race. Fortunately Kenney doesn’t have his own police force, but of course he’s looking into that as well.
Kenney is ruling Alberta more like a strongman than a democrat, perhaps taking a cue from the pipeline-loving president of our good neighbour to the south.