Busy year for elec­tion com­mis­sioner

More than $72,000 in penal­ties handed out af­ter 73 com­plaints in­ves­ti­gated

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - Jeff Labine [email protected]­media.com @jef­flabine

al­berta’s elec­tion com­mis­sioner had a busy first year with 73 com­plaints in­ves­ti­gated and more than $72,000 in ad­min­is­tra­tive penal­ties handed out.

Over the first few months, the Of­fice of the elec­tion Com­mis­sioner, which en­forces al­berta’s elec­toral laws, re­ceived 81 com­plaints af­ter open­ing in July 2018.

In his in­au­gu­ral re­port re­leased on Fri­day, elec­tion com­mis­sioner Lorne Gib­son said the first three months set a prece­dent.

“the num­ber of com­plaints kept in­creas­ing as the date for the 30th gen­eral elec­tion call neared, and a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of com­plaints evolved into full-fledged in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” Gib­son said. “It is my firm be­lief that en­force­ment of elec­tion laws is cru­cial to the suc­cess of our prov­ince’s elec­toral democ­racy — with­out ef­fec­tive en­force­ment, even the best elec­tion laws are merely good in­ten­tions.”

From July 2018 to march 31, 2019, the elec­tion com­mis­sion re­ceived 451 com­plaints. Only 73 of those com­plaints war­ranted fur­ther re­view, which re­sulted in 31 mon­e­tary pe­nal­i­ties, 10 let­ters of rep­ri­mand and three cau­tion let­ters un­der the elec­tion act and elec­tion Fi­nances and Con­tri­bu­tions dis­clo­sure act.

the ma­jor­ity of the cases re­lated to over-con­tri­bu­tion by in­di­vid­u­als and for of­fences in­volv­ing third party ad­ver­tis­ers.

the num­ber of com­plaints no­tice­ably jumped in de­cem­ber to 52, which just so hap­pened to be the le­gal start of ad­ver­tis­ing by third par­ties. Fe­bru­ary, the of­fi­cial start of the elec­tion, saw a sim­i­lar num­ber of com­plaints with march, when the elec­tion took place, see­ing the most com­plaints at 165.

the of­fice re­ceived a bud­get of $1.32 mil­lion but only spent roughly $883,000, al­though Gib­son said they were only open nine months out of the year.

He rec­om­mended the bud­get be in­creased by $700,000 to meet de­mands. In au­gust, the of­fice took over the re­spon­si­bil­ity for lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions.

the re­port in­cludes 60 rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing changes to pro­tect the pri­vacy of vot­ers, re­strict­ing govern­ment ad­ver­tis­ing lead­ing up to an elec­tion and ex­pand­ing the def­i­ni­tion of ob­struc­tion. the com­mis­sion would also like to ex­pand its power by re­quir­ing un­reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion if asked.

there is also a rec­om­men­da­tion to close a “loop­hole” that al­lows po­lit­i­cal par­ties or con­stituency as­so­ci­a­tion mem­ber­ship fees to be paid by banned con­trib­u­tors.

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